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Despite the Cowboys missing several key figures for this clash, they will still start as huge favourites to dismantle a Manly side that seems to be going from bad to worse with every passing week.
It’s been an absolutely thrilling start to the season if you’re a Cowboys fan.
North Queensland haven’t won a match in regulation time, but they remain unbeaten on four points courtesy of pulsating golden-point triumphs over the Raiders and Broncos.
It comes as no surprise that Johnathan Thurston was the main man in both of those victories, especially last week against Brisbane, when his field goal handed the Cowboys a 21-20 win.
But North Queensland’s win over Brisbane – the fourth time in their last five meetings that has been decided by one point – has come at a big cost.
Star prop Matt Scott is gone for the season after rupturing his ACL, while Lachlan Coote and Antonio Winterstein will both be missing from the backline through injury. Jason Taumalolo is also out after being suspended for a shoulder charge.
Nevertheless, even with all those players missing, the Cowboys should still easily account for the struggling Sea Eagles, especially at home.
Trent Barrett is odds-on to be the first coach sacked this season, and after watching the Sea Eagles in their first two games, it’s easy to see why.
There’s just no desire, no creativity, no intensity and seemingly no will to win at Manly right now, and their lacklustre 38-18 loss at home to Souths last week was the latest blow to the once proud club.
Daly Cherry-Evans is playing nothing like a $10 million man and he needs to step up and control his side around the field.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for the Trbojevic brothers, Manly’s current predicament would be even worse.
North Queensland have won five straight against Manly and I think they’ll make it six on Saturday night – and by a big margin.
North Queensland Cowboys: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Justin O’Neill 4. Kane Linnett 5. Javid Bowen 6. Michael Morgan 7. Johnathan Thurston (c) 8. Patrick Kaufusi 9. Jack Granville 10. Scott Bolton 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Ethan Lowe 13. Jason Taumalolo.
Interchange: 14. Ben Hampton 15. John Asiata 16. Coen Hess 17. Sam Hoare 18. Shaun Fensom 19. Gideon Mosby-Gela 20.Corey Jensen 21. Ben Spina
Manly Sea Eagles: 1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Brian Kelly 5. Akuila Uate 6. Blake Green 7. Daly Cherry-Evans (c) 8. Brenton Lawrence 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Nate Myles 11. Frank Winterstein 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Jake Trbojevic.
Interchange: 14. Cameron Cullen 15. Lewis Brown 16. Jarrad Kennedy 17. Shaun Lane 18. Jonathan Wright 19. Jackson Hastings 20. Matthew Wright 21. Bill Bainbridge