Cowboys v Storm: Same 17 for Payten; Hughes' late withdrawal

The Cowboys are riding a five-game winning streak and will relish the opportunity to make a statement against one of the heavyweights of the competition on Saturday night.

With Chad Townsend and Tom Dearden clicking in the halves, Murray Taulagi and Val Holmes on fire out wide, and Reuben Cotter playing out of his skin up front, North Queensland look every bit a premiership contender - a remarkable turnaround for a side that finished 15th in 2021.

The Storm did it tough without Ryan Papenhuyzen and Jahrome Hughes against the Panthers but Craig Bellamy's men rarely put two below-par performances back-to-back so Todd Payten's men need to be on high alert.

The 'house full' sign is expected to be posted at Queensland Country Stadium as the Townsville faithful get behind their team's bid to make it six in a row and catapult a number of their stars into the Maroons team for Origin One.

The Rundown
Team news

Cowboys: No changes in the 24-hour update and no further changes expected for the home side, who would stake their claim as a genuine Premiership threat if they can extend their winning run to six games in a row with victory over the Storm.

Storm: Mass changes. Jahrome Hughes (calf) is out, meaning Nick Meaney shifts to the halves alongside Cameron Munster. Dean Ieremia comes on to the wing to replace Meaney, with Jordan Grant coming on to the bench. Brandon Smith has been named at prop in place of the injured Nelson Asofa-Solomona, but could revert back to the bench with Tui Kamikamica swapping to the starting side on game day.

Key match-up
Tom Dearden v Cameron Munster: The Cowboys No.6 has grown in confidence with each passing week and is loving life in the halves alongside the ice cool Chad Townsend. With the veteran controlling the tempo, Dearden has been free to play what he sees and the results have been stunning for the Cowboys. Munster has been out of this world in a couple of the Storm's big wins, most notably against the Warriors on ANZAC Day where he had three try assists and seven tackle breaks, and round nine against the Dragons when he busted the line three times and had six tackle breaks.

Stat Attack
Since these sides met in the 2017 grand final they have clashed on six  occasions with the Storm winning all six. The average winning margin across the six games has been eight points.




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