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Top-eight spot on the line as Cowboys and Sea Eagles clash in Townsville
After a slow start to the year, the logjam in the middle of the ladder means that victory this week could see North Queensland return to the top eight for the first time since Round One.
The Cowboys have won four of their past five and are boosted by the inclusions of Michael Morgan and Josh McGuire, with both backing up from Wednesday's Origin bout.
Paul Green's men weren't at their best last week as they outlasted the Titans 6-4. Their attack was relatively uninspiring without Morgan.
Instead it was a win built on defence, epitomised by Kyle Feldt's scrambling effort in the final moments to seal the two points.
Morgan lines up at fullback this week in place of Jordan Kahu (shoulder). It means that Jake Clifford and John Asiata line up in the halves again, with the former needing to improve his kicking game after a mixed effort last week.
Gideon Gela-Mosby (collarbone) is also out of the side, replaced by Enari Tuala.
Tom Trbojevic returns for the Sea Eagles at fullback, meaning that the Cowboys will have to be switched on in defence once more.
Manly battled on bravely without Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans but have fallen away in recent weeks, suffering back-to-back defeats.
They struggled for points last week against Penrith, a late Cade Cust inspired surge not enough as they went down 15-12.
They now sit level with five other teams on 12 points, desperate to capitalise on their strong start to the year.
Last meeting: Round 13 2018 - Sea Eagles 12 Cowboys 26
Who to watch: The battle of the fullbacks is worth admission alone. Both are pivotal to their sides' attack.
The Cowboys grinded out a tough win last week against the Gold Coast but lacked polish close to the line. With Michael Morgan they are far more threatening, the five-eighth registering 11 try-assists from as many games this year. He adds an element of unpredictability too as a triple threat with a strong passing, kicking and running game.
Although his kicking game may not be as polished, Tom Trbojevic matches Morgan in the other two areas. The 22-year old has been restricted to just 120 minutes this year but has three tries, two try-assists, five line-breaks and 12 tackle busts. And if he gets through the next two games he is reportedly guaranteed a spot in the NSW Blues side for game two - a clear sign of his game-breaking ability.
The favourite: The Cowboys are slim favourites.
My tip: The inclusion of Trbojevic certainly brings Manly right back into this. Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau will need to fire against one of the competition's strongest forward packs. If they can and if Daly Cherry-Evans plays, the Sea Eagles bounce back. Sea Eagles by 10.
1. Michael Morgan 2. Kyle Feldt 3. Mitchell Dunn 4. Tom Opacic 5. Enari Tuala 6. John Asiata 7. Jake Clifford 8. Josh McGuire 9. Jake Granville 10. Jordan McLean 11. Gavin Cooper 12. Coen Hess 13. Jason Taumalolo 14. Reuben Cotter 15. Shane Wright 16. Scott Bolton 17. Francis Molo
1. Tom Trbojevic 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Dylan Walker 4. Moses Suli 5. Reuben Garrick 6. Cade Cust 19. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Addin Fonua-Blake 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Martin Taupau 11. Joel Thompson 12. Curtis Sironen 18. Jake Trbojevic 13. Jack Gosiewski 14. Manase Fainu 16. Morgan Boyle 17. Taniela Paseka
Referees: Adam Gee, Gavin Badger; Sideline Officials: Rickey McFarlane, Todd Smith; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy, Ben Lowe;