What you need to know – Round 1

The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys host the St George Illawarra Dragons on Saturday evening kicking off the club’s farewell season at 1300SMILES Stadium.

1. NEW FACES

Four new recruits will make their Cowboys debuts against the Dragons. Fullback Jordan Kahu, winger Nene Macdonald, centre Tom Opacic and middle forward Josh McGuire will all play their first games for the club. Kahu has impressed since joining the club from Brisbane late in the pre-season, while Opacic shot into contention for a Round 1 spot after two standout performances in the Cowboys pre-season trials. Macdonald and McGuire joined the club as marquee recruits and shape as key players for Paul Green’s 2019 outfit.

2. MORGAN’S REIGN BEGINS

Michael Morgan will lead the Cowboys on to 1300SMILES Stadium for the first time since being officially announced as the club’s new skipper last week. The 27-year-old takes the reins from retired superstar Johnathan Thurston and club legend Matt Scott, who remains an integral part of the Cowboys leadership group. The match will also be Morgan’s first NRL action in nine months after his 2018 season was cut short by a bicep injury in June. The Dragons clash doubles as Jordan McLean’s first outing as vice-captain of the club.

3. PACK MENTALITY

The recruitment of McGuire means Green will unleash a forward pack containing four international middle forwards and two current Queensland second-rowers. Incumbent Queensland and Kangaroos lock Josh McGuire has been named to start the game from the interchange, with Australian props Matt Scott and Jordan McLean as well as Tongan superstar lock Jason Taumalolo in the starting side. Veteran Maroons star Gavin Cooper and rising star Coen Hess will start in the second row.

4. NO HALF MEASURES

Thurston’s retirement also means a new Cowboys halves pairing. With Morgan confirmed to be moving to halfback early in the pre-season, Te Maire Martin and Jake Clifford were left to juke it out for the No.6 jersey. Green opted to name Martin in his Round 1 side, with the Kiwi international to reignite his partnership with Morgan which helped lead the Cowboys to a grand final berth in 2017.

5. FLOOD FUNDRAISER

Australian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumental performing artist Dami Im will headline ‘Together for North Queensland’, the Toyota Cowboys’ season-opening match on Saturday 16 March, dedicated to raising spirits in the region after the historic floods. GIVIT donation collectors will be located at the gates to assist in fundraising efforts for flood victims in Townsville and north-west Queensland. The National Rugby League will also generously donate $100 for every point scored across eight matches in Round 1 to the North Queensland Flood Appeal, through St Vincent De Paul Society. Members and fans will have the opportunity to bid for match memorabilia in an online auction, with all proceeds going to GIVIT for the Townsville and north-west Queensland flood appeal. $10 from every 2019 Cowboys jersey sold at the Cowboys Team Shop merch stands on game night will be donated to the flood appeal.