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Sharks v Cowboys: Talakai good to go; Hess back from ban

The Sharks and Cowboys have been the two biggest success stories of 2022 after finishing ninth and 15th respectively last season and Saturday night's winner will move to within one game of the grand final.

Under the astute guidance of new coach Craig Fitzgibbon, the Sharks have gone from 10 wins in 2021 to 18 wins, locking up a home final with their away victory over the Knights on Sunday.

The Cowboys also started fresh in 2022 under a new coach in Todd Payten and their turnaround from 7-17 last year to 17-7 has been nothing short of remarkable.

Both sides are entitled to be full of confidence as they enter the finals but it's the Sharks who will go in as slight favourites on the back of home ground advantage and a 26-12 win over the Cowboys in Townsville in Round 18.

Sportsbet Betting preview: Sharks v Cowboys

The Rundown

Team news

Sharks: No late changes to the side named on Tuesday. Centre Siosifa Talakai has overcome his ankle injury and will play. There are four big ins from last week, with lock Dale Finucane (ribs), fullback Will Kennedy (ankle), prop Toby Rudolf (knee) and winger Connor Tracey (concussion) all back on deck. Cameron McInnes and Braden Hamlin-Uele revert to the bench after starting last week.

Cowboys: Coach Payten has opted to start Tom Gilbert in the second row and move Luciano Leilua back to the bench, in an otherwise unchanged side from that named on Tuesday. Coen Hess returns from a one-game suspension, while Tom Dearden (groin) got through his return unscathed last week and will play with a protective box.

Team Lists


  • Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
    Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Scott Drinkwater
  • Winger for Sharks is number 2 Connor Tracey
    Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle Feldt
  • Centre for Sharks is number 3 Jesse Ramien
    Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Valentine Holmes
  • Centre for Sharks is number 4 Siosifa Talakai
    Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Peta Hiku
  • Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
    Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Murray Taulagi
  • Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Matt Moylan
    Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Tom Dearden
  • Halfback for Sharks is number 7 Nicholas Hynes
    Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Chad Townsend


  • Prop for Sharks is number 8 Toby Rudolf
    Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Jordan McLean
  • Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
    Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece Robson
  • Prop for Sharks is number 10 Royce Hunt
    Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Reuben Cotter
  • 2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
    2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Jeremiah Nanai
  • 2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
    2nd Row for Cowboys is number 15 Tom Gilbert
  • Lock for Sharks is number 13 Dale Finucane
    Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason Taumalolo


  • Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Teig Wilton
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 11 Luciano Leilua
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 15 Cameron McInnes
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 16 Braden Hamlin-Uele
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Coen Hess
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Andrew Fifita
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Griffin Neame


  • Replacement for Sharks is number 18 Lachlan Miller
    Replacement for Cowboys is number 18 Jamayne Taunoa-Brown

Match Officials

  • Referee: Adam Gee
  • Touch Judge: Chris Sutton
  • Touch Judge: Jon Stone
  • Senior Review Official: Gerard Sutton

Last updated:

Key match-up

Braden Hamlin-Uele v Reuben Cotter: Before the likes of Hynes, Moylan, Townsend and Dearden can strut their stuff it's the men in the middle who must lay a platform and that's when these two come in. Hamlin-Uele is building nicely towards the finals with 104m and 126m in his past two matches to go with five tackle breaks in each game. Cotter's breakout season has seen him develop into a forward leader and cult figure in Townsville and his intensity is perfectly suited to finals footy. He averages 119 metres per match across the season and will look for that and more in the heavyweight showdown with Hamlin-Uele and Royce Hunt.

Stat Attack

The Sharks came up with 138 line breaks in the regular season, second only to the Storm (144). Leading the charge was winger Ronaldo Mulitalo with 28, followed by Sione Katoa (17), who is unfortunately gone for the season with a pectoral injury. The Cowboys' tally of 118 line breaks ranked them sixth overall, with centre Murray Taulagi (18) and winger Kyle Feldt (14) proving the most effective line-breakers for Todd Payten.

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.