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Five things to know: Round 18 v Roosters

The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys host the Sydney Roosters at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Saturday night.

1. WELCOME HOME

Saturday night marks the first home game in a month for the Cowboys. North Queensland’s previous outing at Queensland Country Bank Stadium came back in Round 15 on June 18 against Cronulla. Saturday night also marks the first of a two-game homestand, with reigning premiers Melbourne coming to town next Friday night.

2. WAITING GAME

Cowboys Head Coach Todd Payten named all three of his State of Origin stars to back up from Queensland’s victory on Wednesday night. Valentine Holmes, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Francis Molo will be assessed by Cowboys medical staff on their return to North Queensland, although Holmes appears unlikely to back up after injuring his shoulder playing for Queensland.

3. MAKING CHANGES

The availability of the Origin trio will have a major bearing on the final makeup of the North Queensland line-up on Saturday night, but Payten has already made changes from the Round 17 loss to South Sydney. Scott Drinkwater returns to five-eighth after playing fullback last weekend, Molo has been named to start with Coen Hess reverting to the interchange, while young forward Peter Hola has been named to play his third game of 2021.

4. BETTER AT HOME

North Queensland’s overall record against the Roosters doesn’t make for pretty reading, but the Cowboys have enjoyed some recent success at home against Tri-colours. The Cowboys have won three of the previous six home outings against the Roosters, although lost the most recent – a 42-16 defeat in 2020.

5. HEATING UP

After an injury disrupted first half of the season, Cowboys skipper Jason Taumalolo has been back to his devastating best the last two weeks. In his previous two outings, Taumalolo has tallied 308 running metres, 10 tackle breaks and 142 post-contact metres.