Full Time
8:05pm Fri July 30, 2021
Round 20 - Suncorp Stadium - Crowd: 29136

Round 20: Brisbane v North Queensland preview

Cowboys season on the line in Queensland derby.

It was only a matter of years ago when the Broncos and Cowboys fixture was considered the showpiece club game of the NRL season as they continuously enthralled rugby league fans with thrilling contests stemming from a long rivalry that lifted to another level following the 2015 grand final.

These days, the two Queensland based clubs are in rebuilding fazes as they strive to be the clubs they once were but that doesn't mean this won't be a good contest after both sides pushed premiership heavyweights Melbourne and Penrith in round 19. The Cowboys are still a slim chance of climbing into the eight, sitting two wins behind the eighth placed Dragons - albeit with the worst points differential of those still in contention. After showing promising signs earlier in the year in which they won six from eight games, the Cowboys have now slumped to six straight defeats with last week's narrow loss to the Storm by far their most impressive performance in some time. 

Looking to build off that performance, Coach Todd Payten has named a mostly unchanged 17 with the only new name being utility Ben Hampton making a return from a pec injury suffered earlier in the year. Named to make his return via the bench, Hampton replaces Daejarn Asi. 

The Broncos sitting second last on the ladder are enduring another tough year after earning themselves their first wooden spoon last season, but are starting to show some encouraging signs and have been competitive in their last three contests which included an upset victory over the Sharks at home in round 16. 

Last week, despite being down by 18 points midway through the second half, they showed enough fight to get within six points of the Panthers and give one of the competition favourites a real fright.

They will go into this contest without the services of Maroons forward Thomas Flegler who copped a two game suspension for his high shot on Panthers lock Isaah Yeo. Flegler is replaced up front by Keenan Palasia with TC Robati returning from injury to take Palasia's interchange spot. The only other change sees Danny Levi coming onto the bench for Cory Paix. 

Last meeting: Round 9 2021 - Cowboys 19 Broncos 18

Who to watch: Three games back from a long injury layoff due to a torn ACL suffered in the final game of the Bronco's season last year, dynamic centre Kotoni Staggs has wasted little time reminding fans of his stunning array of talent. Despite only notching the one try and try assist since his return, Staggs has still looked dangerous when given any sort of room to move and came into his own last week busting eight tackles with his superior strength. It was always going to take a few weeks for the Tongan International to take full flight, but you get the sense he's not far away from an electrifying performance. Would be no surprise to see him hit his straps and produce a match winning play in the Queensland derby.

Six games into his tenure as Cowboys half, Tom Dearden will go toe to toe with his former team mates for the first time on Friday night. It wasn't so long ago the Broncos were talking about rebuilding the club around the young half many touted as "The next Alfie". Surprisingly the Mackay junior was never given an extended run in the team and after being dropped earlier in the year, jumped at the opportunity of regular first grade action in North Queensland. Despite losing all six games he's played in Cowboys colours, the Australian schoolboys representative is looking better each week as he strikes up combinations and gels with his new team mates. With all the skills of a genuine number seven, expect Dearden to play a key role in this one. 

The favourite: The Broncos will run out in a rare turn at carrying the favourites tag but there's little between them in the bookies eyes.

My tip: Work hard and be good to your mother?... tough game to pick. Both were competitive against the competition's top sides last week but consistency isn't something you can associate with either team. Going to lean the Cowboys way though. Unlike the Broncos who rallied late against an under strength Penrith, the Cowboys were in their contest with the Storm up to their eye balls. North Queensland by 6.