After five tough years, Bulldogs fans are hoping this will finally be the season the club returns to the finals and the off-season recruitment drive gives them good cause for optimism.
However, the moment of truth has finally arrived for Trent Barrett and his new look team and their trial form raised as many questions as answers after a 16-16 draw with Newcastle and a 30-6 loss to Cronulla.
With so many new faces, combinations are going to take time to gel but with the likes of Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr, Mat Dufty, Tevita Pangai jnr and Paul Vaughan joining the club results are expected.
The Cowboys are also looking to climb out of the cellar but besides the recruitment of Chad Townsend and Peta Hiku, their biggest off-season changes have been positional, with Val Holmes moving to the centres and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow switching to fullback.
Sportsbet Betting preview: Cowboys v Bulldogs
Cowboys: Tom Gilbert and Mitch Dunn have been promoted to the starting side an hour before kick-off with Coen Hess and Heilum Luki moving back to the bench.
Griffin Neame is the final player to drop out of the squad named on Tuesday, with Scott Drinkwater named the 18th man.
Ispirational skipper Jason Taumalolo is back on deck after missing the trials with a minor hamstring complaint. Along with promising back-rower Jeremiah Nanai, they are the two new faces into the side which took care of the Broncos in impressive fashion in the club's final trial.
Chad Townsend, Peta Hiku and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown are set to make their Cowboys debuts.
Bulldogs: Late changes an hour before kick-off with Tevita Pangai jnr dropping out of the side and Corey Waddell taking his place. Ava Seumanufagai comes into the starting side and Luke Thompson goes to the bench.
The dawn of a new era for the Bulldogs with Matt Dufty, Josh Addo-Carr, Brent Naden, Matt Burton, Paul Vaughan, Max King and Braidon Burns all making their club debuts.
Burns has beaten out Aaron Schoupp for a spot in the centres.
Jake Averillo will call the shots from halfback alongside Burton, while Jeremy Marshall-King fills the vital dummy half role with Bailey Biondi-Odo backing him up from the bench.
Match: Cowboys v Bulldogs
Round 1 -
Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Hamiso Tabuai-FidowFullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Matthew Dufty
Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle FeldtWinger for Bulldogs is number 2 Jayden Okunbor
Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Valentine HolmesCentre for Bulldogs is number 3 Braidon Burns
Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Peta HikuCentre for Bulldogs is number 4 Brent Naden
Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Murray TaulagiWinger for Bulldogs is number 5 Josh Addo-Carr
Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Tom DeardenFive-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Matt Burton
Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Jake Averillo
Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Jamayne Taunoa-BrownProp for Bulldogs is number 10 Paul Vaughan
Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece RobsonHooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
Prop for Cowboys is number 13 Jason TaumaloloProp for Bulldogs is number 23 Ava Seumanufagai
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Jeremiah Nanai2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Jack Hetherington
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 17 Tom Gilbert2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 15 Corey Waddell
Lock for Cowboys is number 16 Mitchell DunnLock for Bulldogs is number 13 Josh Jackson
Interchange for Cowboys is number 10 Coen HessInterchange for Bulldogs is number 8 Luke Thompson
Interchange for Cowboys is number 11 Heilum LukiInterchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Bailey Biondi-Odo
Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Jordan McLeanInterchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Max King
Interchange for Cowboys is number 18 Jake GranvilleInterchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Chris Patolo
Replacement for Cowboys is number 19 Scott DrinkwaterReplacement for Bulldogs is number 20 Aaron Schoupp
- Referee: Ben Cummins
- Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
- Touch Judge: Nick Morel
- Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy
Hamiso Tabuia-Fidow v Matt Dufty: Arguably two of the fastest fullbacks in the NRL, Tabuia-Fidow and Dufty have a different playing style but both are key players for their respective teams. While Tabuia-Fidow is a powerful runner with the ball, Dufty is like an extra play-maker and his combination with halves Matt Burton and Jake Averillo will be a threat for the Cowboys defence. However, the Bulldogs will need to kick away from Tabuia-Fidow as he is a danger from kick returns.
The new look Bulldogs will be searching for their first opening round win since 2016 and just their second win from their past 16 games in Queensland. Cowboys centre Val Holmes has never lost against the Bulldogs.