It’s the second last week of the NRL season, with preliminary finals kicking off at 7:50pm on Friday night. The North Queensland Cowboys welcome the Parramatta Eels to Queensland Country Bank Stadium. The Cowboys have had a couple of weeks to freshen up, while the Eels made light work of the Raiders last week, but still sustained some casualties.

Draftstars has a $30,000 contest with $2665 to first place. There are also several other contests including the Mini, Micro, and the High Roller. 


Team News

The Cowboys are unchanged, right down to the same five reserves. There’s not much to talk about with this lineup, with everybody having earned their spot. The only possible change I can see is Luciano Leilua starting in place of Tom Gilbert in the second row, but neither needs to start to be relevant.

The Eels have only named one change, with Bryce Cartwright replacing Makahesi Makatoa on the bench. That’s not going to have much impact with both confined to very low minutes unless an injury occurs. The more interesting thing to watch is the injury cloud over Tom Opacic. If he is out, expect Marata Niukore to play centre, with Makatoa to rejoin the bench and perhaps get a bigger role than he has recently to fill Niukores shoes. If Opacic plays, Niukore is likely to start at lock with Ryan Matterson back to the bench.

Betting Odds

Cowboys $1.71 v Eels $2.15 - Bet now at Ladbrokes!


I can’t split these teams on paper. For tipping purposes I’d take the Cowboys as home favourites and having had an extra week to freshen up. For betting purposes, I’d be more interested in the Eels at the plus money, but it’s not particularly tempting. That means I don’t see much need to look at this game through a stacking lens. It should be a tight, brutal affair, and a balanced line-up seems to be the prudent play.

Love It - Peta Hiku $10,410

For the most part, the OB position continues to be tightly price, and generally pretty cheap. That means that once again I have interest in almost everybody, but Hiku is the one that looks like the best investment. Despite his age, he’s had a really strong season and continues to have plenty of tricks in his bag. After a down period late in the season he’s strung together two big games, and still comes in as one of the cheapest plays on the slate. Crucially, he could get to run against the side where Niukore will be filling in at centre. Now, Niukore has played there a bit and is a strong defensive player, but we still have to have question marks about the Eels cohesion on that side of the field. On a tight slate, it’s enough for me to back the veteran Cowboy at hopefully low ownership.


Love It - Reed Mahoney $13,150

Mahoney was down again last week, in what has been a bit of baffling season. That’s 6 of his last 9 scores at 35 or less, which isn’t good. But, the other 3 scores, have all been 55+. The earlier part of his season was not this boom/bust, and I truly have no idea what is going on (playing injured?). Still, I have to recommend him here in a game where he simply has to put. Everything on the line. Townsend and Dearden both look a little overpriced for me at the HH position, and while I’m happy to pay up for any of the premium options, we really need the salary saving of Mahoney.


Love It - Jason Taumololo $14,880

This one feels pretty easy. Taumololo was immense against the Sharks, scoring the try that took the game into golden point, and racking up a massive 95 points. He’d had a quiet run before that, but I’m happy to say the team was backing off his workload on the run into finals. It should be all systems go in this one, and he’s just too cheap for a player that projects for 50+ points. He’s not the dominant force he once was, but I think we see something pretty special from the behemoth to try to get his team back into the Grand Final.


Hate It - Jordan McLean $12,000

Another older Cowboys forward, McLean is just the odd man out when it comes to getting minutes in this stacked forward pack. He’s still a reliable presence int he middle of the field, but will almost always score in the 30-40 point range, which isn’t good enough at this price tag. There’s bench players with bigger ceilings below him at the FWD position, as well s far better scorers immediately above him. Also, Niukore becomes an interesting play if he does indeed start at centre.


Hate It - Scott Drinkwater $17,580

Here’s another Cowboy in some good form at the right part of the season, but I just cannot get behind this price tag at the OB position. Consecutive 70+ scores shows that he has enough ceiling to be relevant, but can we really bet on him scoring a 3rd 70+ in a row having not gotten there all season before this? I can’t. He projects for something in the high 40s, and that makes Holmes a far better investment (with a higher ceiling), as well as the fact that spending this salary on Dylan Brown at the HH position where the opportunity cost is far less makes way more sense.


Who Knows - Coen Hess $10,410

I already mentioned Niukore becoming interesting as cheap FWD play, so I’ll look at Hess in this segment. He’s not the player he once was, but he still has some explosive elements to his game and can post a decent score out of nowhere if he happens to get across the line. He’s only on par as a play with the likes of Kaufusi and Neame at the same position, but I think he could have the lowest ownership of the group and become a super sneaky upside play, which could be a winning choice on a big slate like this one.

Draftstars Suggested Team

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