The Dragons may be only one win outside the top eight but their season is hanging by a thread after losses in six of their past seven matches.
Their defensive flaws were ruthlessly exposed by Manly at Lottoland in round 14 and only the Bulldogs, Titans and Eels have conceded more points in 2019.
A stretch of three home games in a row at WIN Stadium could be the tonic the Dragons need to turn things around but the unpredictable Cowboys are not to be taken lightly.
Paul Green's men have attacking threats out wide and a bloke by the name of Taumalolo who averages an NRL high 212 metres per game to lay the platform.
Match: Dragons v Cowboys
Round 15 -
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong
Dragons: Blake Lawrie drops to the bench, with Luciano Leilua chosen to start. Tim Lafai was ruled out on Thursday, replaced by Lachlan Maranta. The other change to the team thrashed 34-14 by Manly in round 14 is on the bench, with Jeremy Latimore chosen instead of Jai Field, who was cut from the reserves an hour before kick-off with Josh Kerr. Jordan Pereira was omitted on Thursday night.
Cowboys: The Cowboys will line up 1-17 as named on Tuesday. Matt Scott failed in his bid to return from a shoulder injury and withdrew on Thursday. Former Storm fullback Scott Drinkwater is straight into the side in the No.1 jersey allowing Michael Morgan to return to five-eighth and Jordan Kahu to centre. Josh McGuire is out suspended and his place is taken by Jordan McLean, who returns from a hamstring injury. Coen Hess (leg) is out and his place is taken by Shane Wright. With Kurt Baptiste gone for the season with a knee injury, Reuben Cotter comes in for his second game of the year. Corey Jensen also joins the bench. Emry Pere was cut from the reserves on Thursday. Peter Hola and Javid Bowen were omitted an hour before kick-off.
Fullback for Dragons is number 1 Matthew DuftyFullback for Cowboys is number 1 Scott Drinkwater
Winger for Dragons is number 2 Jonus PearsonWinger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle Feldt
Centre for Dragons is number 3 Euan AitkenCentre for Cowboys is number 3 Jordan Kahu
Centre for Dragons is number 20 Lachlan MarantaCentre for Cowboys is number 4 Tom Opacic
Winger for Dragons is number 5 Mikaele RavalawaWinger for Cowboys is number 5 Enari Tuala
Five-Eighth for Dragons is number 6 Corey NormanFive-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Michael Morgan
Halfback for Dragons is number 7 Ben HuntHalfback for Cowboys is number 7 Jake Clifford
Prop for Dragons is number 10 Paul VaughanProp for Cowboys is number 8 Scott Bolton
Hooker for Dragons is number 9 Cameron McInnesHooker for Cowboys is number 9 Jake Granville
Prop for Dragons is number 17 Luciano LeiluaProp for Cowboys is number 10 Jordan McLean
2nd Row for Dragons is number 11 Jacob Host2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Gavin Cooper
2nd Row for Dragons is number 12 Tariq Sims2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Shane Wright
Lock for Dragons is number 13 Tyson FrizellLock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason Taumalolo
Interchange for Dragons is number 8 Blake LawrieInterchange for Cowboys is number 14 Reuben Cotter
Interchange for Dragons is number 14 Jeremy LatimoreInterchange for Cowboys is number 15 John Asiata
Interchange for Dragons is number 15 Reece RobsonInterchange for Cowboys is number 16 Corey Jensen
Interchange for Dragons is number 16 Korbin SimsInterchange for Cowboys is number 17 Francis Molo
Following an off night for the Maroons, Michael Morgan will be out to stamp his authority against Dragons No.6 Corey Norman. The recruitment of Scott Drinkwater from the Storm means Morgan can return to five-eighth and he'll be far more comfortable there than he was at centre for Queensland. The clash of Jason Taumalolo and Tyson Frizell will rock the foundations of WIN Stadium and see both men rack up big numbers.
For the Dragons to win
Corey Norman and Ben Hunt must take charge and produce a complete 80-minute display of game management if the Dragons are to turn the corner. Both are capable of great things but both are prone to drifting out of games and coming up with poor last-tackle options. Hunt's tally of eight try assists in 13 games is well behind the likes of Mitchell Moses (16 in 14) and Michael Morgan (15 in 13). With Norman in his third game back from a cheekbone injury and regaining confidence it's time for the Red V playmakers to deliver a much-needed win.
For the Cowboys to win
Morgan needs to bounce back quickly from a forgettable outing in Origin II and remind everyone of the attacking brilliance he possesses. When Morgan gets on the back of Taumalolo's charges and plays the game at speed the Cowboys look capable of blowing any side off the park. Morgan is a Test and Origin rep with plenty of big-game experience and he needs to show the way for youngsters like Jake Clifford and Enari Tuala.
Brett Kimmorley says
Corey Norman was in Perth for part of the Maroons preparation. A big game from him would help his chances of getting selected for game three of the Origin series. I thought the Cowboys were ready to go on a winning streak – then they lost their last match. The will be a grind-it-out affair where both teams will be trying not to lose rather than trying to win. Dragons by 2
The Cowboys are the NRL's leading team in supports (1,776) and post-contact metres (8,813). They are third in runs (2,530) and fifth in run metres (21,874). The Cowboys are also averaging 51% possession per game, which is equal-first with the Rabbitohs and Raiders.
And another thing ...
We're a few weeks into the second round and neither team will be underestimating the importance of this game. They both have eight losses, but the Cowboys have six wins to the Dragons' five. Their respective for and against totals are very similar - the Cowboys have scored 238 and conceded 290, while the Dragons have scored 237 and given up 299. Friday's clash is their second meeting in 2019, with the Cowboys prevailing 24-12 in round one at Townsville.