CANBERRA RAIDERS v NORTH QUEENSLAND TOYOTA COWBOYS
7pm, Monday 11 July, GIO Stadium, Canberra
Referees: Grant Atkins, Alan Shortall
Review officials: Ashley Klein, Ben Galea, Steve Chiddy
Touch judges: Russell Turner, Chris Butler
Cowboys: 3rd (11 wins, five losses, one bye): 24 points
Raiders: 6th (nine wins, six losses, one draw, one bye): 21 points
Cowboys: 1 Lachlan Coote, 2 Kyle Feldt, 3 Tautau Moga, 4 Javid Bowen, 5 Antonio Winterstein, 6. Rory Kostjasyn (c), 7 Ray Thompson, 8 Ben Hannant, 9 Jake Granville, 10 Scott Bolton, 11 Coen Hess, 12 Ethan Lowe, 13 Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14 Josh Chudleigh, 15 John Asiata, 16 Ben Spina, 17 Patrick Kaufusi.
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Brenko Lee, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joey Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Blake Austin, 7 Aidan Sezer, 8 Junior Paulo, 9 Josh Hodgson, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Sia Soliola, 12 Elliott Whitehead, 13 Shaun Fensom. Interchange: 14 Kurt Baptiste, 15 Clay Priest, 16 Paul Vaughan, 17 Joe Tapine.
Cowboys: Kyle Laybutt (arm)/ Kane Linnett (calf) – Round 20; Sam Hoare (knee/shoulder) – season
Raiders: Luke Bateman (suspended)/Josh Papalii (hip)/Edrick Lee (hamstring)/Jeff Lima (hip) – Round 20.
- Both teams are shooting for a third straight win. The Cowboys have posted home-and-away victories over Manly and South Sydney respectively, while the Raiders have saluted away against Gold Coast and at home against Newcastle.
- Head to head, the Raiders have 20 wins to the Cowboys’ 16. In 18 games played at GIO Stadium between the sides, the home side has the clear advantage, having won 13.
- The Cowboys have won 12 of the past 16 encounters between the teams and six of the past eight.
- The Cowboys twice triumphed over the Raiders in 2015: 32-24 in Townsville and 21-20 in Canberra.
- The Cowboys go into the match minus five of their team on State of Origin duty – Matt Scott, Johnathan Thurston, Gavin Cooper and Justin O’Neill for Queensland and James Tamou for New South Wales.
- Incumbent Maroons interchange forward Michael Morgan has been ruled out for state and club duties with a knee injury.
- The Raiders have no players in either State of Origin side, with incumbent forward Josh Papalii ruled out of both game III and Monday’s NRL match with a hip injury. They are also without forward Luke Bateman through suspension.
- The Cowboys are due to have two players play their first NRL games of 2016, while they will blood one debutante. Back-rower Ben Spina and centre Tautau Moga have both been named in the 17.
- Moga has already played 17 games for NQ over 2014-15 before a serious knee injury ended his season last year. He has been playing for the Mackay Cutters in the Intrust Super Cup for a couple of months.
- Spina has played six NRL games to date, and again gets his chance to impress at NRL level against the Raiders on Monday.
- Back-up hooker Josh Chudleigh, 22, will make his NRL debut after two strong seasons in the Intrust Super Cup for the Cutters. He will be Cowboy No. 259.
- The Cowboys have scored just eight more points than the Raiders over 16 games – 414 to 406.
- Eight Cowboys have played in all 16 games this year – Coote, Feldt, Winterstein, Hannant, Granville, Bolton, Lowe and Taumalolo. Five Raiders have the achieved the same – Croker, Rapana, Hodgson, Whitehead and Baptiste.
- Canberra’s Elliott Whitehead is the third-most prolific tackler in the NRL this season, with 655 made.
- The Cowboys are completing at 78% this season to the Raiders’ 74%.
- Both teams have their second bye after Monday’s game.
KEY MATCH-UP – KOSTJASYN v AUSTIN
If there’s ever been a more contrasting pair of No.6s go head-to-head this year, we’ve yet to see it.
With a slew of his teammates on Origin duty or injured, savvy, hard-working veteran Rory Kostjasyn takes on two of the most important roles in the team – five-eighth and captain.
The super-consistent 29-year-old will make his tackles and get his team around the park – with the assistance of halves partner Ray Thompson and fullback Lachlan Coote – with the Cowboys classy outside backs and edge forwards looking to do the bulk of the attacking.
By contrast, Canberra’s bearded wizard Austin is a run-first, pass-second player, dangerous in the opposition’s 20m zone and a handful for any defence due to his speed and power.
If Kostjasyn can blunt Austin’s attacking potency, it will go a long way to victory in the nation’s capital.
Cowboys coach Paul Green: “You hope that those guys seize the opportunity, put their best foot forward and bring some energy and enthusiasm.”
Raiders captain Jarrod Croker: “We’ll worry about us, but they’ve still got some quality players … Lachlan Coote, Granville, Taumalolo … some really good footballers there still.”