Schick Hydro Preview: North Queensland Cowboys v Gold Coast Titans
Both the North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans will be coming off the bye and will have two State of Origin representatives backing up from Wednesday night, which should leave them fairly even in terms of the Origin toll – but both sides have had major changes since they last met in Round 4.
For this match the Cowboys will have fullback Lachlan Coote and Dally-M medal winner Jason Taumalolo to bolster their ranks, while missing the steady hand of Johnathan Thurston. The Titans have a host of differences, with the likes of Origin representatives Nathan Peats and Jarryd Hayne returning from the Titans' extensive injury list.
For the first time in several years the Cowboys will have a fresh forward pack in the Origin period, while the Titans will be hopeful that Peats can still play for the full 80 after returning from his debut Origin game for New South Wales.
Why the Cowboys can win: They were unlucky to go down to the Cronulla Sharks in Round 11, with poor fifth-tackle execution costing them the game in the end. Fortunately for the Cowboys they have a clearly defined goal to focus on and coach Paul Green will have used the time off to make sure his team functions like clockwork on the fourth and fifth tackles.
While Thurston is an irreplaceable absence, Jake Granville, Lachlan Coote and Michael Morgan have all contributed to fill the gap and in their previous two game they've done a superb job. Morgan has racked up five try assists, Granville has tightened the Cowboys up around the ruck and Coote has kicked for 391 metres, averaging 67.3 metres more than his overall average for the season. If these players kick on with their good form, they'll have no problem using the likes of Coen Hess to run over the Titans' halves, as he has all year.
Why the Titans can win: The Titans aren't completely out of their horror injury streak yet, but they are faring a lot better than they were when the teams last met. They'll be missing the stood-down Kevin Proctor the most, but the return of Hayne and Peats will be a massive boost. Hayne's ability speaks for itself, but the presence of an Origin-calibre hooker will give the Titans' forwards better direction and more opportunity when they offload to the speedy hooker. Like most games in the NRL this game will be won by the forwards, but the Titans will need to combine hard-running with sensible use of their offloads in order to maximise their metres. If they give the Cowboys cheap possession Granville, Morgan and Coote will run rampant in the Gold Coast's end, and all the tackling will leave them too tired to run.
 Telstra Premiership: Jake Granville vs Nathan Peats
All Runs, All Run Metres, Line Break Assists, Tackles.
The history: Played 18; Cowboys 10; Titans 8. The Cowboys got over an injury-riddled Titans in their previous meeting at the Gold Coast, but Neil Henry's team hasn't won in Cowboys country since 2012 when Neil Henry was still the coach of North Queensland.
What are the odds: North Queensland is extremely popular in the head-to-head market and Sportsbet reports more money for Cowboys 13+ than all of the other winning margin options combined. Coen Hess is the best backed for first try scorer. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au
Match officials: Referee: Henry Perenara. Assistant referee: Chris James. Touch Judges: Clayton Sharpe and Nick Morel. Review officials: Bryan Norrie and Ashley Klein.
Televised: Channel Nine and Fox League – Live coverage from 7.30pm
How we see it: Both teams have improved since Round 4, but the Cowboys have improved more. They were unlucky to go down to the Sharks but out-classed the Canterbury Bulldogs the week before. The Titans have been inconsistent, going down to the Sea Eagles by 20 points in Round 11, after upsetting the Melbourne Storm at home in Round 10. Cowboys by 10.