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After five tough years, Bulldogs fans are hoping this will finally be the season the club returns to the finals and the off-season recruitment drive gives them good cause for optimism.

However, the moment of truth has finally arrived for Trent Barrett and his new look team and their trial form raised as many questions as answers after a 16-16 draw with Newcastle and a 30-6 loss to Cronulla.

With so many new faces, combinations are going to take time to gel but with the likes of Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr, Mat Dufty, Tevita Pangai jnr and Paul Vaughan joining the club results are expected.

The Cowboys are also looking to climb out of the cellar but besides the recruitment of Chad Townsend and Peta Hiku, their biggest off-season changes have been positional, with Val Holmes moving to the centres and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow switching to fullback. 

Sportsbet Betting preview: Cowboys v Bulldogs

The Rundown

Team news

Cowboys: Tom Gilbert and Mitch Dunn have been promoted to the starting side an hour before kick-off with Coen Hess and Heilum Luki moving back to the bench. 

Griffin Neame is the final player to drop out of the squad named on Tuesday, with Scott Drinkwater named the 18th man.  

Ispirational skipper Jason Taumalolo is back on deck after missing the trials with a minor hamstring complaint. Along with promising back-rower Jeremiah Nanai, they are the two new faces into the side which took care of the Broncos in impressive fashion in the club's final trial.

Chad Townsend, Peta Hiku and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown are set to make their Cowboys debuts.

Bulldogs: Late changes an hour before kick-off with Tevita Pangai jnr dropping out of the side and Corey Waddell taking his place. Ava Seumanufagai comes into the starting side and Luke Thompson goes to the bench.

The dawn of a new era for the Bulldogs with Matt Dufty, Josh Addo-Carr, Brent Naden, Matt Burton, Paul Vaughan, Max King and Braidon Burns all making their club debuts.

Burns has beaten out Aaron Schoupp for a spot in the centres.

Jake Averillo will call the shots from halfback alongside Burton, while Jeremy Marshall-King fills the vital dummy half role with Bailey Biondi-Odo backing him up from the bench.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
    Fullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Matt Dufty
  • Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle Feldt
    Winger for Bulldogs is number 2 Jayden Okunbor
  • Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Valentine Holmes
    Centre for Bulldogs is number 3 Braidon Burns
  • Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Peta Hiku
    Centre for Bulldogs is number 4 Brent Naden
  • Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Murray Taulagi
    Winger for Bulldogs is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
  • Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Tom Dearden
    Five-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Matt Burton
  • Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Chad Townsend
    Halfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Jake Averillo

Forwards

  • Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown
    Prop for Bulldogs is number 10 Paul Vaughan
  • Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece Robson
    Hooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
  • Prop for Cowboys is number 13 Jason Taumalolo
    Prop for Bulldogs is number 23 Ava Seumanufagai
  • 2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Jeremiah Nanai
    2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Jack Hetherington
  • 2nd Row for Cowboys is number 17 Tom Gilbert
    2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 15 Corey Waddell
  • Lock for Cowboys is number 16 Mitchell Dunn
    Lock for Bulldogs is number 13 Josh Jackson

Interchange

  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 10 Coen Hess
    Interchange for Bulldogs is number 8 Luke Thompson
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 11 Heilum Luki
    Interchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Bailey Biondi-Odo
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Jordan McLean
    Interchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Max King
  • Interchange for Cowboys is number 18 Jake Granville
    Interchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Chris Patolo

Reserves

  • Replacement for Cowboys is number 19 Scott Drinkwater
  • Reserve for Bulldogs is number 20 Aaron Schoupp

Match Officials

  • Referee: Ben Cummins
  • Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
  • Touch Judge: Nick Morel
  • Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy

Last updated:

Key match-up

Hamiso Tabuia-Fidow v Matt Dufty: Arguably two of the fastest fullbacks in the NRL, Tabuia-Fidow and Dufty have a different playing style but both are key players for their respective teams. While Tabuia-Fidow is a powerful runner with the ball, Dufty is like an extra play-maker and his combination with halves Matt Burton and Jake Averillo will be a threat for the Cowboys defence. However, the Bulldogs will need to kick away from Tabuia-Fidow as he is a danger from kick returns.

Stat Attack

The new look Bulldogs will be searching for their first opening round win since 2016 and just their second win from their past 16 games in Queensland. Cowboys centre Val Holmes has never lost against the Bulldogs.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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