The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys host the Cronulla Sharks at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
1. UNLIKELY RIVALS
One team resides in tropical North Queensland, the other on the beaches of southern Sydney, but that hasn’t prevented the two sides from building a fierce rivalry since the Cowboys entered the competition in 1995. The Cowboys’ 48 clashes with the Sharks are their second most meetings against any side, only trailing the 52 encounters with arch-rivals Brisbane. Cronulla holds a comfortable 28-18 lead in the head to head match-up, although two of the more famous victories in Cowboys history have come against the team from ‘The Shire’, including an extra-time 15-14 triumph in week one of the 2017 finals and a 39-nil thrashing in the 2015 finals.
2. REPLACING TAUMALOLO
Superstar lock Jason Taumalolo will miss the next 6-10 weeks after sustaining a knee injury in Round 2, although Cowboys head coach Paul Green has the luxury of calling upon the current Queensland and Australian No.13 Josh McGuire to fill in for the 2016 Dally M winner. McGuire is off to a strong start to his Cowboys career, averaging just shy of 150 running metres and 33 tackles through his first two games in North Queensland colours.
3. CHANGE AT THE BACK
McGuire’s move to lock is one of a number of changes made by Green for the Cronulla clash. Jordan Kahu moves from fullback to centre, with Te Maire Martin shifting to the No.1 jersey, allowing young gun Jake Clifford to come into the side at five-eighth. Ben Hampton also comes into the side at centre for his first NRL outing of 2019, while Corey Jensen will also make his season debut after overcoming a pre-season ankle injury.
4. FAMILY FRIENDLY
With daylight savings still in effect in NSW, Saturday night’s game is scheduled to kick-off at the unusual, but family-friendly time of 4.30pm. Saturday’s battle with the Sharks and the meeting with Canberra a week later are the only two Cowboys home games scheduled for pre-5.30pm kickoffs in 2019.
5. HOME HAT-TRICK
Saturday night’s game marks the start of an exciting three-game homestand for the Cowboys. Along with the Sharks clash, the Cowboys also take on the Raiders in Round 4 and Storm in Round 5 at 1300SMILES Stadium, before leaving Queensland for the first time in 2019 to take on the Warriors in Round 6.