North Queensland come to town looking to upset the party in Melbourne once again.
Their representative stars are all back and firing, leaving Craig Bellamy and his coaching staff with plenty to consider heading into Saturday night’s Qualifying final.
With the best squad in the NRL the Cowboys have the best depth at their disposal and a wealth of attacking threats all over the park.
We take a close look at what Melbourne need to plan for heading into the blockbuster at AAMI Park.
JT back and fit
Thurston was nursed through the back end of this year’s Origin period. He missed two games, both resulting in losses to the Cowboys. But since his return it is no surprise the form of his side has drastically changed. After losing four of five games, a fully fit Thurston has since steered his team into a three game winning streak. The playmaker has also come up with five try assists during that stretch. Now he returns to the scene of last year’s preliminary final, where his four try assists sent North Queensland on their way to a maiden premiership triumph. It goes without saying, JT will be the focus of many film sessions at Storm HQ this week.
With two of Australia’s front rowers in James Tamou and Matt Scott backed up by the most damaging forward runner in the game in Jason Taumalolo, this Cowboys pack is a considerable force. North Queensland were the only team to run for more metres during the season than Melbourne. Finals games are always won up the middle so stopping this trio will be vitally important. As good as Thurston and Michael Morgan are, the Cowboys pack is what puts them in positions to allow them to do some damage.
North Queensland have made the trip to Melbourne with little reason to be fearful. They recorded a 32-12 win to progress to last year’s Grand Final at Storm’s expense. The Cowboys will have 14 of the 15 players who played that night in their line up this week. Last year’s result will give them a great deal of confidence and it will be up to Storm to try and ensure history does not repeat itself.