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Cronulla remain on track for the finals but another thumping by Penrith has provoked serious doubts about whether they can compete if they get there.

The eighth-placed Sharks are four points clear of Wests Tigers, St George Illawarra, Manly and the Warriors but a couple more losses and the pressure could increase tenfold in the last few rounds.

It was against the Cowboys way back in round four that Cronulla opened their account. North Queensland's season nosedived dramatically from that point but interim coach Josh Hannay has at least got his scrappy side playing with some heart as they tested likely finalists South Sydney and Newcastle over the past fortnight.

The Rundown

Team news

Sharks: Shaun Johnson (groin) is replaced by rookie halfback Braydon Trindall, while Andrew Fifita returns from a badly broken finger on the bench. Connor Tracey replaces Matt Moylan at five-eighth. 

Briton Nikora returns in the back row pushing Siosifa Talakai to the interchange. Scott Sorensen starts at lock with Toby Rudolf coming off the interchange.

Jack Williams and Bryson Goodwin dropped off the extended bench an hour before kick-off after Moylan and Teig Wilton were trimmed from the reserves on Friday.

Cowboys: Murray Taulagi was ruled out on Friday with a knee injury and is replaced by Connelly Lemuelu in the centres.

Valentine Holmes returns from an ankle injury on the wing with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tom Opacic out. Daejarn Asi returns at five-eighth in place of Ben Hampton.

Francis Molo starts at prop with Josh McGuire moving to lock for the injured Jason Taumalolo (calf) and Tim Gilbert added to the pine.

Peta Hola was cut from the squad 24 hours before kick-off and Shane Wright and Jake Clifford were omitted on game day.

The Cowboys have not won at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium since 2003.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Sharks is number 1 William Kennedy
    Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Scott Drinkwater
  • Winger for Sharks is number 2 Sione Katoa
    Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle Feldt
  • Centre for Sharks is number 3 Josh Dugan
    Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Justin O'Neill
  • Centre for Sharks is number 4 Jesse Ramien
    Centre for Cowboys is number 20 Connelly Lemuelu
  • Winger for Sharks is number 5 Ronaldo Mulitalo
    Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Valentine Holmes
  • Five-Eighth for Sharks is number 6 Connor Tracey
    Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Daejarn Asi
  • Halfback for Sharks is number 23 Braydon Trindall
    Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Michael Morgan

Forwards

  • Prop for Sharks is number 8 Braden Hamlin-Uele
    Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Francis Molo
  • Hooker for Sharks is number 9 Blayke Brailey
    Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reuben Cotter
  • Prop for Sharks is number 10 Aaron Woods
    Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Jordan McLean
  • 2nd Row for Sharks is number 11 Briton Nikora
    2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Mitchell Dunn
  • 2nd Row for Sharks is number 12 Wade Graham
    2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Coen Hess
  • Lock for Sharks is number 15 Scott Sorensen
    Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Josh McGuire

Interchange

  • Interchange for Sharks is number 13 Toby Rudolf
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Jake Granville
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 14 Siosifa Talakai
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 John Asiata
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 17 Royce Hunt
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Tom Gilbert
  • Interchange for Sharks is number 21 Andrew Fifita
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Corey Jensen

Match Officials

  • Referee: Chris Sutton
  • Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
  • Touch Judge: Drew Oultram
  • Video Referee: Bryan Norrie
  • Senior Review Official: Henry Perenara

Last updated:

Key match-up

Braydon Trindall v Michael Morgan. Trindall will be keen to show he can cut it in the NRL after an impressive debut last month in the win over Brisbane and then last week's loss to Penrith.

Opposing halfback Morgan was brilliant with two tries against the Rabbitohs in round 14 but he couldn't help the Cowboys score a point against the Knights. He'll be determined to rectify that.

Stat Attack

There's no questioning Cronulla's attacking firepower with an average of 24.9 points per game – but they have glaring defensive issues. The Sharks have missed the most tackles (551), though North Queensland aren't without their own frailties, ranking sixth (439).