Cowboys missing Six Shooters as they go to battle against Roosters

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Sydney Roosters v North Queensland Cowboys Sunday 4:05pm at Allianz Stadium, Moore Park / Gadigal

The Roosters and Cowboys may have been battered by Origin, but one team is clearly hurting more than the other heading into this matchup.

The Chooks bounced back from a loss to the Sharks with a strong 44-16 win against the Raiders. Unfortunately the win came at a cost, helping to convince Michael Maguire to select Joseph Sua'ali'i, Spencer Leniu and Angus Crichton for Origin, while Lindsay Collins was an obvious call up for the Maroons. Making matters worse, Egan Butcher's season has ended after suffering a torn ACL in the match.

But the biggest name not pick was James Tedesco, who for the first time in his Roosters career will be able to play through the Origin period. The rest of the side has been reshuffled, with Nat Butcher, Junior Pauga, Siua Wong, Sitili Tupouniua and Michael Jennings the new faces in the 17.

The Cowboys poor run of form has been snapped, with a change to take a third win in a row after victories over the Tigers and Rabbitohs. But they've lost a massive 6 players to Origin duty, namely co-captains Tom Dearden and Reuben Cotter, on top of Murray Taulagi, Valentine Holmes, Jeremiah Nanai and Reece Robson.

As a result the team has had to make mass changes, a rarity under Todd Payten. Tom Chester and Braidon Burns return in the outside backs, Jake Clifford comes in at five-eighth with the other Jake, Granville, at hooker, while Harrison Edwards and NRL debutante Jamal Shibasaki have been added to the bench.

This match shapes up as a chance for the Roosters to really put points on the board. They have the best attack in the league, averaging 31 points a game, while the Cowboys have one of the worst defences, giving up 26. And while the Cowboys aren't impartial to putting points on the board themselves (26 a game), the removal of some of their best attacking options as well as a strong Roosters defence (20 points a game) spells worrying signs.

Last meeting: Round 10 2023 - Roosters 6 Cowboys 20

Who to watch: James Tedesco's omission from the NSW squad, while admittedly a shock to few, was a surprise nonetheless. And the Cowboys are poised to be the first victim on his revenge tour. Already with 16 try contributions through his first 11 matches, Tedesco will be looking to rack up even more points to keep himself in the Origin picture in case he is required.

For the Cowboys this feels like a bit of a make or break game for Chad Townsend. The last season and a half a lot of the argument against him has been that Dearden makes him look better than he really is. And with his foil now in Queensland camp, it feels like any slip up will be placed under the microscope, especially if he is outperformed by Clifford.

Finally, the debutant Jamal Shibasaki is an exciting back row options for a team that has produced several in recent years. Still just 18, he's scored 7 tries in 10 games for the Mackay Cutters this season and has proven strong defensively, averaging 21 tackles a game at an efficiency of 91%. With Kulikefu Finefeuiaki leaving at the end of the season, this doubles as an audition for Shibasaki to seal a spot on the bench full time in 2025.

The favourite: The Roosters are very heavy favourites in this one.

My tip: The amount of talent lost by a team already outside the top 8 is almost unheard of, but that's a challenge the Cowboys will need to overcome. I don't see them being able to pull it off unfortunately. Roosters by 14. 

4. Joseph Manu 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Fetalaiga Pauga 17. Michael Jennings 5. Dominic Young 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Brandon Smith 10. Terrell May 11. Nat Butcher 12. Victor Radley 13. Naufahu Whyte 14. Sandon Smith 15. Siua Wong 16. Sitili Tupouniua 19. Blake Steep 18. Zach Dockar-Clay

1. Scott Drinkwater 2. Kyle Feldt 22. Jaxon Purdue 4. Viliami Vailea 5. Braidon Burns 6. Jake Clifford 7. Chad Townsend 8. Jordan McLean 9. Jake Granville 10. Griffin Neame 11. Heilum Luki 12. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki 13. Thomas Mikaele 14. Sam McIntyre 15. Harrison Edwards 16. Jamal Shibasaki 17. Jason Taumalolo 19. Thomas Duffy

Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: David Munro, Wyatt Raymond; Video Referees: Adam Gee;

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