Looking to snap a two-game losing streak, the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys’ under-20 team will take an unchanged 17 into their Round 24 National Youth Competition match against a dangerous New Zealand Warriors outfit at 1300SMILES Stadium this afternoon.
Aaron Payne’s young charges – with a 13-win, seven-loss, one-draw record – are looking for a spark when they host the 13th-placed Warriors (eight wins, 13 losses) after dropping to third on the ladder with losses to the Tigers and Roosters in the past fortnight.
Despite their current ladder position, the young Warriors are one of only four teams to have rolled defending premiers – and runaway competition leaders – Penrith this season, and have a long history in the NYC of winning matches against the odds.
Cowboys winger Gideon Gela-Mosby has overcome a slight injury scare and will take his place in the team, while Payne welcomes back skipper and halfback Cooper Bambling following a four-game layoff with a high-ankle sprain.
Bambling’s return means stand-in halfback Kalyn Ponga shifts back to his customary fullback role, with Gela-Mosby moving from the No.1 spot back to the wing.
In-form outside back Nathan Traill retains his place in the side and will come off the interchange bench alongside forwards Corey Horsburgh, Kaleb Fuimaono and Nick Lui Toso.
Lock Emry Pere and backup hooker Duarne Dempsey have been left out the side from last weekend’s 42-24 loss to the Roosters.
A win for the Cowboys will put the side temporarily back in the No.2 position, with the second-placed Roosters hosting the Dragons tomorrow.
Today’s game kicks off at 5.15pm.
Cowboys NYC: 1 Kalyn Ponga, 2 Gideon Gela-Mosby, 3 Bacho Salam, 4 Enari Tuala, 5 Marcus Jensen, 6 Ty Carucci, 7 Cooper Bambling (c), 8 Darryn Schonig, 9 Brandon Smith, 10 Ross Bella, 11 Cody Maughan, 12 Hiale Roycroft, 13 Tahanui Tutavake. Interchange: 14 Nathan Traill, 15 Corey Horsburgh, 16 Kaleb Fuimaono, 17 Nick Lui Toso.
Warriors NYC: 1 Kane Telea, 2 Lewis Soosema, 3 Melino Fineanganofo, 4 Junior Pauga, 5 Matt Faitotoa, 21 Erin Clark, 7 Chanel Harris-Tavita, 8 Kenese Kenese, 9 Sheldon Pitama (c), 10 Mattais Heimuli, 11 Joseph Vuna, 12 Marata Niukore, 15 Cyrus Timo-Latu. Interchange: 13 Chris Sio, 16 Joseph Price, 17 Jerome Mamea, 18 Dylan Tavita.