The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys host the Melbourne Storm at Queensland Country Bank Stadium on Friday night.
1. FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER
The Storm clash marks the first of two consecutive prime time Friday night fixtures for the Cowboys. Following the Round 19 showdown at home against Melbourne, the Cowboys travel to Brisbane to take on the Broncos in a Round 20 XXXX Derby at Suncorp Stadium.
2. DREAM DEBUT
Kane Bradley only joined the Cowboys late in the pre-season, six months later he has been called upon for his NRL debut by Todd Payten. A 107kg, 196cm giant, Bradley was a second-rower coming through the Wests Tigers junior systems, but moved to the wing in 2019. Bradley’s ascension to first grade is even more impressive considering he missed the start of the season while recovering from a shoulder reconstruction. Injury and COVID-19 restrictions have limited Bradley to just six games for the Mackay Cutters in 2021, but he has impressed in the small sample size.
3. HAMMER RULED OUT
The 19-year-old fullback has been ruled out of Friday's clash against Melbourne after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in Townsville on Wednesday. He is expected to be sidelined for six weeks.
4. CENTRE OF ATTENTION
Murray Taulagi has been a revelation on the wing for the Cowboys in 2021, but on Friday night will line-up in his preferred centre position for the first time this season. Taulagi leads the Cowboys with 10 tries in 15 games – all of which have come on the wing. Taulagi has been named at left centre against the Storm, a position he has played three times in his career, including impressive performances in the final two games of the 2020 season.
5. LENDING ASSISTANCE
Scott Drinkwater’s playmaking has continued to improve in 2021. One of the NRL leaders in try assists last season, Drinkwater again sits inside the top 10. His 15 try assists in 17 games are the ninth most in the NRL, eight behind competition leader Cody Walker.