Jonathan Thurston remains one of the best players in the world. Photo: Mark Nolan/Getty Images
Last 5 Meetings
Round 21 2012 – Bulldogs 32 d North Queensland Cowboys 18 at ANZ Stadium
Round 22 2011 – Bulldogs 14 d North Queensland Cowboys 6 at ANZ Stadium
Round 24 2010 – Bulldogs 22 d North Queensland Cowboys 20 at Dairy Farmers Stadium
Round 23 2009 – Bulldogs 22 d North Queensland Cowboys 12 at Dairy Farmers Stadium
Round 16 2009 – Bulldogs 30 d North Queensland Cowboys 18 at ANZ Stadium
The Bulldogs has been a club that has courted controversy over the past decade and this year has been no different with reigning Dally M medallist Ben Barba stood down by the club indefinitely to deal with some personal issues. His absence leaves a huge hole in the teams attack and has been further compounded by the fact that big forwards Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard and James Graham are also unavailable. No doubt the loss of Barba is the biggest blow however, with the side having lost the last three games that Barba missed. Des Hasler is boosted by the addition of Tony Williams however, and he will be an important player for the Dogs inexperienced pack.
The Cowboys enter a new campaign without Aaron Payne for the first in more than a decade but appear to have covered his retirement well, with English international Scott Moore to make his NRL debut at hooker and premiership winner Rory Kostjaysn to come off the bench. Jonathan Thurston didn’t play a trial match for North Queensland after suffering a hand injury playing for the Indigenous All-Stars earlier in the month, while Ray Thompson won the race to partner Thurston in the halves ahead of Robert Lui.
– Although teammate Ben Barba took the plaudits for Canterbury’s attacking footy last season, Josh Morris was equally electric for large parts of the season. He is likely to be the Bulldogs go to man in attack and can build on his reputation as a prolific tryscorer have bagged 17 tries last year.
Ashley Graham had the best year of his career in 2012, scoring 21 tries in just 24 appearances for the Cowboys and will make his opponent pay if he gets a yard of space.
- Although it have won only nine of 29 matches against the Bulldogs, North Queensland will go into this match full of confidence against a depleted Dogs outfit that surely must be affected by the off field dramas that have consumed the club for the new season has even kicked off. This match is being played at Bluetongue Stadium rather than in Sydney is another big advantage for the Cowboys and they can upset last year's beaten grand finalists. North Queensland Cowboys 1-12
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