Infotainment Factory: Dragons clash starts new era for Cowboys

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Saturday, 16 March 2019

Dragons clash starts new era for Cowboys


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Life without Johnathan Thurston begins in earnest for North Queensland on Saturday when they host St George Illawarra in their NRL season opener.

The champion halfback has hung up his boots after 294 games for the Cowboys and Michael Morgan not only takes over his No.7 jersey but the club captaincy as well.

Morgan will at least have the benefit of playing behind a potentially devastating forward pack against the Dragons.

Veteran prop Matt Scott is back after an injury-marred 2018 and joins Jason Taumalolo, Jordan McLean, Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess in the Cowboys starting forwards.

With recruit Josh McGuire on the bench, Morgan and five-eighth Te Maire Martin should have plenty of go-forward.

Jordan Kahu will make his Cowboys debut at fullback after his move from Brisbane while another ex-Bronco, Tom Opacic, will also be making his first appearance for Paul Green's men.

The premiership-winning coach was optimistic his backline would have the firepower to back up their forwards' potential.

"We won't know until Saturday night but we've got some guys there who've played some rep footy," Green said.

"The guys that are starting for us on the weekend - not just Tom, there's a few there - the job for them is to keep their position. They've got first crack at it for whatever reason, whether that be form or injury or otherwise.

"It's up to them to keep it now."

The Dragons head north after an off-season shrouded by Jack de Belin's rape allegations. De Belin is unavailable due to the NRL's "no fault" stand down policies, with NSW State of Origin representative Tyson Frizell to play at lock.

Saturday will also be recruit Corey Norman's first game in the Red V with Norman's arrival at five-eighth forcing Gareth Widdop to fullback.

"Obviously Corey Norman brings a bit more strike to them, another threat on the field, so I'd expect them to start where they left off from last year," Green said, with the Dragons having won the corresponding match last season 24-10.

KEY MATCH STATS

* St George Illawarra are aiming to score 34 or more points in three straight opening round games for the first time.

* The Cowboys have won eight of 11 games at Townsville against the Dragons, with last year's 24-10 round 19 defeat snapping a four game win streak.

* A try to Cowboys back rower Gavin Cooper would make him just the second player since 1980 to score a four-pointer in 10 consecutive first-grade matches, joining Phil Blake (1983).

Life without Johnathan Thurston begins in earnest for North Queensland on Saturday when they host St George Illawarra in their NRL season opener.

The champion halfback has hung up his boots after 294 games for the Cowboys and Michael Morgan not only takes over his No.7 jersey but the club captaincy as well.

Morgan will at least have the benefit of playing behind a potentially devastating forward pack against the Dragons.

Veteran prop Matt Scott is back after an injury-marred 2018 and joins Jason Taumalolo, Jordan McLean, Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess in the Cowboys starting forwards.

With recruit Josh McGuire on the bench, Morgan and five-eighth Te Maire Martin should have plenty of go-forward.

Jordan Kahu will make his Cowboys debut at fullback after his move from Brisbane while another ex-Bronco, Tom Opacic, will also be making his first appearance for Paul Green's men.

The premiership-winning coach was optimistic his backline would have the firepower to back up their forwards' potential.

"We won't know until Saturday night but we've got some guys there who've played some rep footy," Green said.

"The guys that are starting for us on the weekend - not just Tom, there's a few there - the job for them is to keep their position. They've got first crack at it for whatever reason, whether that be form or injury or otherwise.

"It's up to them to keep it now."

The Dragons head north after an off-season shrouded by Jack de Belin's rape allegations. De Belin is unavailable due to the NRL's "no fault" stand down policies, with NSW State of Origin representative Tyson Frizell to play at lock.

Saturday will also be recruit Corey Norman's first game in the Red V with Norman's arrival at five-eighth forcing Gareth Widdop to fullback.

"Obviously Corey Norman brings a bit more strike to them, another threat on the field, so I'd expect them to start where they left off from last year," Green said, with the Dragons having won the corresponding match last season 24-10.

KEY MATCH STATS

* St George Illawarra are aiming to score 34 or more points in three straight opening round games for the first time.

* The Cowboys have won eight of 11 games at Townsville against the Dragons, with last year's 24-10 round 19 defeat snapping a four game win streak.

* A try to Cowboys back rower Gavin Cooper would make him just the second player since 1980 to score a four-pointer in 10 consecutive first-grade matches, joining Phil Blake (1983).

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