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Both the Bulldogs and Cowboys underwhelmed to start the season and need to find their rhythm.

Canterbury defended resolutely but didn't fire in attack in an 8-2 loss to Parramatta, while North Queensland were blown away by Brisbane's forwards in a 28-21 defeat.

The Dogs are the home team at ANZ Stadium but they won't have any supporters behind them, with this match marking the first to be played without a crowd amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rundown

Team news

Bulldogs: The Bulldogs are 1-17. Only one change to the squad which lost to the Eels with Jake Averillo coming onto the bench to make his NRL debut in place of Kerrod Holland, who has picked up a knee complaint in training. Morgan Harper and Jack Cogger were omitted from the 21-man squad on Wednesday, while Ofahiki Ogden and Sione Katoa dropped off the reserves list an hour before kick-off.

Cowboys: North Queensland are also as named on Tuesday. Josh McGuire returns from suspension in a boost for Paul Green's team. John Asiata reverts to the bench after playing prop last week and Corey Jensen drops out of the 17. Justin O'Neill copped a head knock against Brisbane but is expected to be right to play. Shane Wright and Tom Opacic were omitted 24 hours before game time and Corey Jensen and Jake Clifford made way on game day.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
    Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Valentine Holmes
  • Winger for Bulldogs is number 2 Nick Meaney
    Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle Feldt
  • Centre for Bulldogs is number 3 Reimis Smith
    Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Justin O'Neill
  • Centre for Bulldogs is number 4 Will Hopoate
    Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Esan Marsters
  • Winger for Bulldogs is number 5 Christian Crichton
    Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Ben Hampton
  • Five-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Brandon Wakeham
    Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Scott Drinkwater
  • Halfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Lachlan Lewis
    Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Michael Morgan

Forwards

  • Prop for Bulldogs is number 8 Aiden Tolman
    Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Josh McGuire
  • Hooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
    Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Jake Granville
  • Prop for Bulldogs is number 10 Dylan Napa
    Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Jordan McLean
  • 2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 11 Josh Jackson
    2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Gavin Cooper
  • 2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Joe Stimson
    2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Coen Hess
  • Lock for Bulldogs is number 13 Adam Elliott
    Lock for Cowboys is number 13 Jason Taumalolo

Interchange

  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Dean Britt
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Reece Robson
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 15 Renouf To'omaga
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 John Asiata
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 16 Raymond Faitala-Mariner
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 16 Mitchell Dunn
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Jake Averillo
    Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Francis Molo

Match Officials

  • Referee: Adam Gee
  • Referee: Chris Butler
  • Touch Judge: Jeff Younis
  • Touch Judge: Matt Noyen
  • Video Referee: Beau Scott
  • Senior Review Official: Steve Chiddy

Last updated:

Key match-up

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak v Valentine Holmes. DWZ had a mixed bag last round, making a few errors, but the fullback was easily the Dogs' biggest threat with the ball. He'll have to outpoint Cowboys custodian Holmes, who wasn't electric in his NRL return but showed glimpses of his best including scoring a try.

Where it'll be won and lost

A lot will depend on whether Canterbury can get their offense in order. Their defensive grittiness is admirable but one suspects they'll need at least a few tries to beat North Queensland. For the Cowboys, it's all about staying patient. They pushed the pass too often against Brisbane, leading to breakdowns in play, but looked dangerous at times.

Brett Kimmorley says

Canterbury showed they can defend extremely well but a lack of points might be something that hurts them in 2020. I thought the Cowboys were extremely poor for the opening of their new stadium. They missed just over 50 tackles and that will need to improve very, very quickly. I did like some of the attacking strengths North Queensland offered, however. Cowboys by 2.

Stat Attack

The Bulldogs had 18 ineffective tackles to Parramatta's six in round one and completed 70% (26/37) of their sets. The Cowboys missed a whopping 51 tackles in their first-round loss to Brisbane.

And another thing…

The Bulldogs finished the 2019 season with five wins from their final six games including giant-killing scalps of finals-bound teams Souths, Parramatta and Brisbane – but the team they couldn't beat in that period was the Cowboys, who prevailed 15-9 in their final game at 1300Smiles Stadium.