Minus JT, the Cowboys are underdogs against Canberra on Sunday. Source: Getty Images/couriermail.com.au
Canberra Raiders v North Queensland Cowboys
Sunday May 25 – 3:05 PM (AEST)
The Cowboys have a poor record without inspirational half Johnathan Thurston, but they don't seem to be too worried this year. They're even minus Brent Tate and Matt Scott (origin) and the injured Gavin Cooper - but they're still not too concerned. Maybe it's because they face a Canberra Raiders outfit which is just not clicking, in attack and defence. The Raiders on the other hand, are without one of their best - commanding forward Josh Papalii.
Even minus their Origin stars, the Cowboys are looking the goods. Michael Morgan has been a revelation at fullback, Curtis Rona is a superstar-in-the-making on the wing and Tariq Sims was very unlucky to miss out on a Blues jersey. Jason Taumalolo comes into the starting side for Gavin Cooper, who suffered one of the most painful injuries in contact sport, dislocating his hip. Robert Lui replaces Thurston at pivot and Ashton Sims starts up front for Scott. Anthony Mitchell, Ricky Thorby and Joel Reithmuller make up a six-man bench.
Ricky Stuart is starting to run out of excuses. If the Raiders don’t start performing, Sticky could be facing the axe. Reports of Stuart running the broom through the Raiders (Parramatta-style) is putting everyone on notice, and while it wasn’t a popular decision last year, the Eels are reaping the benefits now. Even skipper Terry Campese has been given the tap on the shoulder to lift his game. The saving grace for the Raiders is that young superstar Mitch Cornish makes his debut off the bench. A Goulburn junior, Cornish is the future of the Raiders. With Josh Papalii in Origin camp, Joel Edwards has moved to the starting side.
If JT was there, the Cowboys would be a sure thing. While they should still come away with this one, the Raiders might just cause an upset.