Monday night footy is set to ignite GIO Stadium as the reigning premiers meet the Canberra Raiders in a contest that could go a long way to deciding the top four.
Both teams are searching for three wins in a row, with the Cowboys coming into the match full of confidence after a powerful display against the Rabbitohs last weekend in Cairns.
How the Cowboys cope with the temperature change from playing in Cairns during the day to a frosty Canberra night could have a massive impact on the game's outcome.
They will also be missing five of their superstars to State of Origin, while the Raiders will be without Josh Papalii, Edrick Lee and Luke Bateman. Shannon Boyd and Jordan Rapana also remain in doubt after picking up minor injuries last weekend.
Raiders forward Clay Priest comes into the team for Bateman, and is excited to be back for the first time since Round 14.
“Having gone back and played with the Mounties the last few weeks has done a lot for me as a player. It’s helped my confidence and hopefully this week I can fit straight back in,” Priest said.
“We have to make sure we have our heads on right and get the two points. If Boydy doesn’t play there are a lot of other guys that can step up and fill his shoes.”
If Boyd’s knee injury does rule him out of the game, new recruit Junior Paulo knows he will have to step up.
“It will be a bit of extra responsibility. Being at this club there is a lot of depth. I’m sure if Boyd can’t play whoever replaces him will do a great job,” Paulo said.
“Sia and Fenno (Shaun Fensom) are real leaders at the club and they are the guys you want to be following. To have them both playing on Monday night is a bonus for us.
“If I’m in the 17 and playing and doing my job for the team then I’m happy. If we are getting the two points then I’m doing my job.”
Both teams enjoy the bye in Round 19, adding extra importance to grabbing the two points on Monday before the final run home towards finals.
A bruising encounter with the Knights last weekend has tested the depth of the Raiders squad. Shannon Boyd and Jordan Rapana are named in the team to face the Cowboys, but will need to pass fitness tests after picking up injuries during the Raiders golden point win. Josh Papalii is unavailable after a hip injury ruled him out of State of Origin 3, while Luke Bateman will also miss the match after picking up a one game suspension.
Sia Soliola and Clay Priest come into the team as replacements for Papallii and Bateman. Soliola will start in the second row, while Priest will come off the bench. Junior Paulo has been named to start in the front row alongside Shannon Boyd, with Paul Vaughan named on the bench.
Origin has forced the Cowboys to make numerous changes to the side that held the Rabbitohs scoreless last weekend. Gavin Cooper, James Tamou, Johnathan Thurston, Justin O'Neill and Matthew Scott are all unavailable due to Origin duty. Michael Morgan also remains out due to injury.
Rory Kostjasyn, Ben Hannant and Scott Bolton move into the starting team. Tautau Moga and Coen Hess will also start in the centres and back row respectively. Ben Spina, Josh Chudleigh (NRL debut) and Patrick Kaufusi come on to the bench. Chudleigh is a former Raiders junior who was part of the SG Ball team that made the grand final in 2012.
Highlights from last time we met - a frustrating 32-24 loss at 1300 Smiles Stadium in Round 21, 2015.