North Queensland v Cronulla Sharks Friday, March 9, 8:05pm (AEDT) 1300Smiles Stadium, Townsville
The Cowboys exceeded all expectations in 2017 after losing future immortal Johnathan Thurston to a season-ending shoulder injury. They finished the regular season in 8th spot, and went on a giant-killing run through the finals, eventually getting outclassed 34-6 by the Storm in the grand final. The return of a healthy JT along with workhorse Matt Scott will put the Cowboys in a strong position to go one better this season. Meanwhile, the Sharks have added two big names to their roster in Matt Moylan and Josh Dugan during the off-season, and will be a tough test for the Cowboys first-up after some impressive trial form.
FormNorth Queensland were stunned in their first trial game when going down 30-16 to the Wests Tigers in Cairns in Johnathan Thurston’s return from injury. They turned the tables a week later though when a late Kyle Feldt try secured a 16-14 win for the Cowboys at a rain-soaked Suncorp in Thurston’s testimonial clash. Cronulla recorded strong wins in their two trials with a 30-14 win over Manly before a 24-12 victory over the Wests Tigers. Valentine Holmes and Matt Moylan both shone bright in the wins.
Key MatchupMichael Morgan v Matt Moylan: Michael Morgan looked like the best player in the world during last year’s finals series, and recently signed a lucrative deal that will see him as a Cowboy for life. There’s reports that Morgan won’t necessarily take a back seat with Thurston returning, which can only be a positive thing for the Cowboys. A Thurston and Morgan double-punch will send shivers through the NRL. New Sharks recruit, Matt Moylan will have a point to prove in The Shire after an unhappy exit from Penrith. Moylan struggled in the back end of the year for the Panthers and the change of scenery could bring out the best in the former NSW player. It’s a big test in Townsville first-up, but The Wolf is expecting Moylan to surprise a few critics this year.
Stats That Matter– Cronulla have won four of the last five clashes with North Queensland but the Cowboys won the last clash 15-14 in a famous finals victory that kick-started their run to the Grand Final. – Just one of the last seven matches have topped 42 points. – The Sharks are 15-8 ATS interstate over the last four years. – The Cowboys are 25-17 ATS as a home favourite of more than a converted try over the last three seasons. – Cronulla have covered six of the last nine clashes between the two teams. – Losing Grand Finalists have covered just 1 of their last 7 Round 1 games.
Final ThoughtsThe Wolf is extremely keen on the Sharks with the start here, and suggests they look over the odds in head-to-head betting. Cronulla has won four of the past five against the Cowboys and have covered in six of the last nine clashes between the teams. The Wolf is all over the Cowboys to take out the NRL premiership, but is expecting a rusty performance out of the blocks. Both Thurston and Matt Scott are returning from long-term injuries, while Kane Linnett and Lachlan Coote will watch this one from the sidelines due to injury. The upset is on the cards in Townsville!
How It’s Shaping UpCronulla by 4
Recommended BetsBest: Cronulla +5.5 ($1.95) Value: Cronulla ($2.60) First Tryscorer: Luke Lewis ($26)