So here it is. The litmus test. So much of a sides season comes down to how they handle rep period. Although the Dragons are without their main man (Dugan) and the Broncos have more players out. The Cowboys are arguably hardest hit, not only with their halves out but their two props, Scott and Tamou.
Brisbane were up 18-6 last week up to the 58th minute. Then Scott and Tamou came back onto the field and the game turned. This week it will be up to Hannant and Bolton to carry the mantle and they will probably have to play more minutes.
In the halves the Cowboys have gone with Hughes and Thompson. Although Ray Thompson has first grade experience (always on the fringe of the side), and he fills in well at first. There is no doubt that Marshall and Widdop have got their number.
Without Thurston and Morgan in the side the Cowboys ability to score points will be greatly diminished. Match that with the Dragons excellent defensive form (6th in the comp). Pair this with the game being a road trip (WIN stadium) and the Cowboys could find themselves up against it.
The factor in the Cowboys favour is that the Dragons are missing Dugan. You might think to yourself 'he is just one player'. But he is the Lynch pin of their side. Dugan has almost single handedly carried St George this season and if the Cowboys have any chance it is in their kicking game. Turning the back 3 around and playing off their line.
The other option for the Cowboys is to play Coote up in the attacking line a lot. I think the more Coote gets his hands on the ball in this game the better. I honestly thought Coote would be named in the halves with Ponga at fullback for this game. They might even send Hughes out the back in attack and get Coote trying to link up with Bowen.
A tough one to pick and unfortunately Cowboys fans I don't think we will get there in a close one. Thurston and Morgan too important. St George to win 12-8.
The North Queensland Cowboys V The St George Illawarra Dragons, Saturday May 27th, WIN Stadium 7.30pm (AEST). Check your local guides for coverage.
Nth Qld 1.Coote 2. Feldt 3.Linnett 4. Bowen 5.Winterstein 6.Hughes 7.Thompson 8.Hannant 9.Granville 10.Bolton 11.Cooper 12.Lowe 13. Taumalolo Interchange: Kostjasyn, Asiata, Hess, Kaufusi.
St George: 1.Knightingale 2.Fai Fai Loa 3.Aitken 4.Lafai 5.Mann 6.Widdop 7.Marshall 8.Ah Mau 9.Rein 10.Packer 11.Marketo 12. Thompson 13.Cooper Interchange: Host,Lui, Havili, Matthews.