Paul Green probably wonders what he did to deserve such bad luck on the injury front in 2019.
While the Cowboys haven't struck any real fear into the hearts of opponents due to a general lack of firepower, they have had to make do without key players like Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo, Matt Scott, Jordan McLean and Kyle Feldt at various stages of the season.
Last week they suffered their 14th loss of the season when they went down to the Knights in Newcastle and it might well be 15 after Friday night.
The Panthers missed a big chance to jump three or four points clear of their main top eight rivals with last week's road loss to Brisbane and basically face do-or-die games for the rest of the season.
Match: Cowboys v Panthers
Round 23 -
Venue: 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville
Cowboys: Tom Gilbert and Corey Jensen are the final cuts for North Queensland. The club has rallied around prop Matt Scott after he suffered a mild stroke on Sunday. Scott Bolton has been named to start in his place. Coen Hess drops to the bench. Jordan Kahu shifts from wing to centre, with Murray Taulagi promoted to start on the wing. In a huge boost for the Cowboys Jason Taumalolo will make a return from a foot injury at lock. Halfback Jake Clifford dropped out on Thursday with an ankle injury so John Asiata will move into the halves. Gideon Gela-Mosby was omitted 24 hours before kick-off.
Panthers: Jarome Luai and William Burns drop out of the match-day squad for Penrith. Josh Mansour has succumbed to a back injury and been replaced on the wing by 18-year-old Stephen Crichton, who returns from an ankle injury. Isaah Yeo has been named to start and Moses Leota is on the bench but they may swap again on game day as they did last week. Hame Sele and Malakai Watene-Zelezniak were omitted 24 hours before kick-off.
Match: Cowboys v Panthers
Round 23 -
Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Scott DrinkwaterFullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle FeldtWinger for Panthers is number 2 Stephen Crichton
Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Jordan KahuCentre for Panthers is number 3 Dean Whare
Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Tom OpacicCentre for Panthers is number 4 Brent Naden
Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Murray TaulagiWinger for Panthers is number 5 Brian To'o
Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Michael MorganFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 James Maloney
Halfback for Cowboys is number 13 John AsiataHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Nathan Cleary
Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Scott BoltonProp for Panthers is number 8 James Tamou
Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Jake GranvilleHooker for Panthers is number 9 Mitch Kenny
Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Jordan McLeanProp for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Gavin Cooper2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Viliame Kikau
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Shane Wright2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Liam Martin
Lock for Cowboys is number 18 Jason TaumaloloLock for Panthers is number 13 Isaah Yeo
Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Reuben CotterInterchange for Panthers is number 15 Spencer Leniu
Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Coen HessInterchange for Panthers is number 16 Moses Leota
Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Peter HolaInterchange for Panthers is number 17 Reagan Campbell-Gillard
Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Francis MoloInterchange for Panthers is number 18 Wayde Egan
- Referee: Matt Cecchin
- Referee: Phil Henderson
- Touch Judge: Tim Roby
- Touch Judge: Dave Munro
The Panthers will turn to James Maloney and Nathan Cleary to spark the offence against Michael Morgan and Jake Clifford. Viliame Kikau has to out-play veteran Cowboys back-rower Gavin Cooper and get back to his usual damaging self on the fringes.
For the Cowboys to win
The Morgan-Clifford combination has to fire, while the outside backs need to show some signs of life and prove to Green they deserve a look-in when he sits down to nut out his squad for next season.
For the Panthers to win
It's their second trip to Queensland in as many weeks and if it doesn't end better than it did against the Broncos, the Panthers' courageous mid-season revival might be all for nothing. Ivan Cleary has to be ready to make adjustments on the run and make sure his team is ready to weather an early onslaught.
Brett Kimmorley says
Penrith have plenty to play for now. We’ve seen them play good – and play bad. It’s three rounds to go now, they need to find three consistent wins. If that’s going to happen it has got to happen off the back of their forwards. As for the Cowboys, they now sit in 15th which is not very good. They need to find a lot more than just a high completion rate to win a game of football. Panthers by 8
James Maloney has kicked more field goals (4) than any other player in the NRL, but he has also given away more penalties (23) and missed more tackles (109) than anybody.
And another thing ...
Friday's clash will be the first between the Panthers in 2019. They squared off twice last season, with the Panthers prevailing 33-14 in round four at Townsville before the Cowboys atoned with a 26-20 victory in round nine at Bathurst.