Injuries and suspensions have hit hard for both the Cowboys and the Dolphins in the opening rounds of the competition, robbing this week's latest Queensland derby of some of its lustre.
Both teams lost in Round 5, with the gritty efforts of the first month taking a toll on the Dolphins who have had their depth severely tested in recent weeks. Their loss to the Dragons was made even harder to take, with the side suffering another key injury in the halves, with Anthony Milford injuring his hamstring.
The Cowboys went down in a thriller against the Bulldogs, with a stunning Matt Burton field goal in golden point consigning the North Queensland side to their third loss of the season.
North Queensland fullback Scott Drinkwater is set to return and it will be a good battle against his former teammate Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, who has started strongly for the Dolphins and is the NRL's equal leading tryscorer with six tries in his five games.
Match: Cowboys v Dolphins
Round 6 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Cowboys: There were no late changes to the 17 in the one-hour prior to kick-off update. Fullback Scott Drinkwater's return from suspension has pushed Tom Chester to the interchange bench. Forwards Heilum Luki and Jordan McLean are both out with hamstring injuries, so Griffin Neame moves into the starting side and Reuben Cotter returns from a knee injury at prop. Rookie Riley Price retains his spot on the bench after a strong debut against the Bulldogs. Ben Hampton and Jack Gosiewski remain in the reserves.
Dolphins: The visitors have lost skipper Jesse Bromwich for the match with Poasa Faamausili dropping back to the bench and Mark Nicholls coming into the starting side in the one-hour prior to kick off update. Ray Stone also moves into the starting side with Herman Ese'ese moving to the bench. Kodi Nikorima (facial cuts) is back on deck and will play five-eighth with Isaiya Katoa going to halfback in place of Anthony Milford, who faces 3-4 weeks out with a hamstring injury. Edrick Lee will play his first NRL game of the year on the wing, taking over from Jack Bostock. On the bench, Kurt Donoghue has been recalled in place of Mason Teague. Forward Felise Kaufusi has one more game remaining on a suspension.
Match: Cowboys v Dolphins
Round 6 -
Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Scott DrinkwaterFullback for Dolphins is number 1 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow
Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle FeldtWinger for Dolphins is number 2 Jamayne Isaako
Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Valentine HolmesCentre for Dolphins is number 3 Euan Aitken
Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Peta HikuCentre for Dolphins is number 4 Brenko Lee
Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Brendan ElliotWinger for Dolphins is number 5 Edrick Lee
Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Tom DeardenFive-Eighth for Dolphins is number 6 Kodi Nikorima
Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Dolphins is number 7 Isaiya Katoa
Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Mitchell DunnProp for Dolphins is number 15 Mark Nicholls
Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Reece RobsonHooker for Dolphins is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Reuben CotterProp for Dolphins is number 16 Ray Stone
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Coen Hess2nd Row for Dolphins is number 11 Kenneath Bromwich
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Griffin Neame2nd Row for Dolphins is number 12 Connelly Lemuelu
Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason TaumaloloLock for Dolphins is number 13 Tom Gilbert
Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Jake GranvilleInterchange for Dolphins is number 10 Herman Ese'ese
Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Tom ChesterInterchange for Dolphins is number 14 Jarrod Wallace
Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Jamayne Taunoa-BrownInterchange for Dolphins is number 17 Kurt Donoghoe
Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Riley PriceInterchange for Dolphins is number 18 Poasa Faamausili
Replacement for Cowboys is number 19 Jack GosiewskiReplacement for Dolphins is number 20 JJ Collins
- Referee: Adam Gee
- Touch Judge: Chris Sutton
- Touch Judge: Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski
- Senior Review Official: Grant Atkins
- The Cowboys have won five of their past seven games at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
- Fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has scored six tries in five games for the Dolphins.
- Cowboys fullback Scott Drinkwater has scored seven tries in his last 10 games.
- The Dolphins have three former Cowboys players in their line-up.
- Cowboys centre Valentine Holmes has kicked 16 of his last 17 attempts at goal.
- Chad Townsend's six try assists has him equal top of that category alongside Reece Walsh, Adam Reynolds and Siosifa Talakai.
Stats supplied by David Middleton, League Information Services, author of the official annual of the NRL.