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North Queensland won't have any shortage of motivation to improve after they conceded 34 first-half points in last week's loss to the Wests Tigers.

Back at home after two weeks on the road, they have a great chance to make amends by challenging the high-flying Newcastle Knights.

While the injury-hit Cowboys are staring down the barrel of four consecutive losses, the Knights have surged into second place after dusting up Brisbane last weekend.

The Rundown

Team News

Cowboys: In late changes an hour before kick-off Francis Molo moves to the bench and Shane Wright is elevated to the starting side. The last two players omitted are Reuben Cotter and Jake Granville.

Former Test prop Jordan McLean makes an early return from a calf injury after being elevated to the second row with Mitchell Dunn omitted from the squad 24 hours out from kick-off because of a groin problem.

Rookie winger Connelly Lemuelu is out after the 19-man squad reduction due to a shoulder problem with Tom Opacic moving into the starting side from the reserves. The Cowboys have won four of their past five matches against the Knights.

Knights: The Knights are 1-17. Bradman Best has been ruled out after inadvertently breaching the NRL's COVID-19 protocols. The NRL loosened restrictions on players last Sunday to enable them to seek permission to visit family members outside their bubble but Best did not follow the process correctly. He's replaced by Enari Tuala in the centres.

Brodie Jones and Phoenix Crossland were dropped from the squad on Friday and Tautau Moga and Pasami Saulo were omitted an hour before kick-off. Knights second-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon has scored three tries in three games against the Cowboys.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
    Fullback for Knights is number 1 Kalyn Ponga
  • Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle Feldt
    Winger for Knights is number 2 Edrick Lee
  • Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Justin O'Neill
    Centre for Knights is number 3 Enari Tuala
  • Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Esan Marsters
    Centre for Knights is number 4 Gehamat Shibasaki
  • Winger for Cowboys is number 18 Tom Opacic
    Winger for Knights is number 5 Hymel Hunt
  • Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Scott Drinkwater
    Five-Eighth for Knights is number 6 Kurt Mann
  • Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Jake Clifford
    Halfback for Knights is number 7 Mitchell Pearce

Forwards

  • Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Josh McGuire
    Prop for Knights is number 8 David Klemmer
  • Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece Robson
    Hooker for Knights is number 9 Andrew McCullough
  • Prop for Cowboys is number 20 Jordan McLean
    Prop for Knights is number 10 Daniel Saifiti
  • 2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Coen Hess
    2nd Row for Knights is number 11 Lachlan Fitzgibbon
  • 2nd Row for Cowboys is number 19 Shane Wright
    2nd Row for Knights is number 12 Sione Mata'utia
  • Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason Taumalolo
    Lock for Knights is number 13 Tim Glasby

Interchange

  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 10 Francis Molo
    Interchange for Knights is number 14 Tex Hoy
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Ben Hampton
    Interchange for Knights is number 15 Jacob Saifiti
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Gavin Cooper
    Interchange for Knights is number 16 Herman Ese'ese
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Peter Hola
    Interchange for Knights is number 17 Aidan Guerra

Key Match-Up

With North Queensland light on experience at the moment, Josh McGuire and Jason Taumalolo are charged with plenty of responsibility. They'll have to stand up against a raging-hot Knights forward pack led by David Klemmer and the in-form Saifiti brothers to give the Cowboys a chance.