The North Queensland Cowboys take on the Manly Sea Eagles tonight live from Brookvale Oval. Both sides began the season slowly but have now pushed their way into finals contention with strong mid-season runs. A win tonight will set either side up for finals, as they go one game clear of the loser.
Daly Cherry-Evans will be back for the Sea Eagles after his side’s massive loss in the State of Origin. Alongside Cherry-Evans, fellow Origin representative Jake Trbojevic will also return for Manly. The Sea Eagles fullback Tom Trbojevic will be rested.
The Cowboys will also have some massive ins. Valentine Holmes is back for the Cowboys. Unfortunately, fellow Origin representative Kyle Feldt will miss the match with a back bleed.
While these are big ins, backing up after a challenging game on Wednesday may prove difficult.
In a normal week, the coaches might have left out their Origin stars, but not when the game is this important.
The Sea-Eagles and Cowboys are equal 6th on the ladder, only separated by point difference. Both sides started the season with four losses before going onto winning runs.
North Queensland and Manly have been neck and neck all season. With so much riding on this game, both sides will want to come out firing.
North Queensland head coach Todd Payten spoke to the media on where his team is positioned.
“If I’m honest, I think we were flat on Tuesday. But today [Thursday] they were indeed up and about, so that fills me with a bit more confidence.
“In saying that, we’re going down to play Manly on a Friday night, there’s a testimonial to Bozo Fulton, so they’ll be emotionally driven. The NSW players are coming in on a high, we know what we’re walking into, and we know how we need to turn up.”
When asked where the game will be won and lost against Manly, Payten responded.
“Obviously, games are won and lost through the middle, with the way we carry the ball, and we defend and move.”
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North Queensland player Jordan Mclean also faced the media ahead of this vital clash. Asked whether he saw this as a match to get one up over the Sea Eagles on the ladder, Mclean suggested it inspires the boys to play better.
“Myself, I don’t [look at the ladder], but I know there are definitely boys in the team that look at that stuff.”
The Sea Eagles will go into this match as favourites. With the home crowd there to cheer them on and a recent big NSW Origin win, it would be hard to go past the Sea Eagles for this match.
Sea Eagles hooker Lachlan Croker spoke on the home ground advantage.
“There’s not many ovals like it anymore. You get to all those fancy stadiums, it’s not the same thing as running out at Brooky, with a packed crowd of about 8000, it’s just a really good place to be.”
Second Rower Karl Lawton also spoke on how amazing it will be to play at home.
“They’re a spot under us. It will be a tough game, this will be my first game at home, so it’ll be nice.”
Both teams will be looking to stamp their authority on the competition by securing a finals position tonight. However, with Manly at home and under the tutelage of Des Hasler, it will be hard to go past Manly as the favourites tonight.