Panthers v Cowboys: Big guns return; Same 17 for Payten

The Cowboys will need to conquer arguably the toughest challenge in the NRL and beat the Panthers in Penrith if they are to play finals football in 2023, while the defending premiers could go into the game still in the race for the minor premiership.

While North Queensland aren’t totally in control of their own destiny, it all starts with having to win on Saturday night to give themselves a chance of playing beyond the regular season. 

If they can beat Penrith and the Rabbitohs lose to the Roosters then North Queensland are probably through, while they could still make it if the Rabbitohs win and Raiders lose to the Sharks. 

The Panthers meanwhile will know well before kick-off if they are still in the race for the minor premiership, requiring a Broncos loss to the Storm to be any chance of winning the J.J Giltinan Shield for a second-straight year.

Either way Ivan Cleary’s charges will be eager to bounce back after being upset by the Eels last week to suffer their first defeat since a golden point loss to the Cowboys way back in mid-June.  

North Queensland have one of the better recent records against the Panthers, having won both of their previous two meetings, but at BlueBet Stadium this season Penrith have lost just twice, while prior to last week they were undefeated there since Round 1.

Team News
Panthers: Centre Izack Tago has been added to the run-on side on Friday as he returns from the leg injury that has sidelined him since Round 20. Tyrone Peachey goes back to the bench. Zac Hosking will also start the game with Scott Sorensen set to miss another week. Luke Garner joined the bench on Friday and Soni Luke dropped out.

Dylan Edwards, Sunia Turuva and Mitch Kenny are all back on deck after being rested in Round 26. Jack Cogger replaces the injured Jarome Luai (shoulder) having been a regular in the side since Round 14 in various roles. 

Cowboys: Todd Payten rolls out the same 17 that got the job done against the Dolphins with no changes in Friday's 24-hour update. Rookie Zac Laybutt holds his place in the centres on the back of a two-try haul in his third NRL game. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown is 18th Man for the third week running. Edge forward Jeremiah Nanai remains sidelined with a shoulder injury.

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