Match Preview: Cowboys v Raiders

The Cowboys' NRL stocks surged last year under Dally M coach of the year Todd Payten and the North Queenslanders will be looking to pick up where they left off when they host Canberra.

Both sides were part of the finals action in 2022 but came up short of the ultimate prize with the grind of a long season taking its toll on Ricky Stuart's Raiders particularly, who dealt with a number of injuries throughout the year.

The Cowboys have lost Tom Gilbert to the Dolphins and are also without Heilum Luki (knee) and Luciano Leilua (stood down) but they still boast a strong pack which includes rep stars Reuben Cotter and Jeremiah Nanai.

Meanwhile, Canberra have lost fullback Xavier Savage to a broken jaw but Ricky Stuart is spoilt for choice with utility backs capable of filling the No.1 jersey with centre Seb Kris likely to fill the position.

The Raiders lost 34-18 to the Bulldogs and 36-4 to the Wests Tigers in their pre-season matches, while the Cowboys had a 22-22 draw with the Dolphins before falling short to the Broncos 20-18.

The long haul to Townsville is one of the toughest road trips to the NRL, as the Raiders were reminded in a 26-6 loss at QCB Stadium in round 2 last year.

Team News 
Cowboys: The Cowboys are 1-17 with no late changes. James Tamou plays his first game for the Cowboys since 2016 when he lines up on the interchange on Saturday. Forward Coen Hess is set to fill the vacant left second-row spot after two years playing almost exclusively as a middle forward. Hess could potentially play 80 minutes given the lack of another edge forward on the Cowboys bench. Jamayne Taunoa-Brown has overcome a rib injury sustained in the NRL All Stars game earlier this month to take his spot on the bench.

Raiders: The Raiders 1-17 remains the same with no late changes. Seb Kris has been given the job at fullback to replace Xavier Savage (broken jaw) with Jordan Rapana on the wing. Harley Smith-Shields returns to the NRL for the first time since 2021 in the centres. Prop Josh Papali'i is out with a slight calf strain and his place is taken by Pasami Saulo in his first game for the club. After starting at No.9 during the Pre-Season Challenge, Huddersfield recruit Danny Levi makes his Green Machine debut at hooker. Tom Starling fills the impact hooker position on the bench. 

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