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NRL: Cowboys and Panthers missing Origin stars

Penrith Panthers and North Queensland Cowboys will both have their strength-in-depth tested when they clash in the opening game of week 16 on Friday night.

With game two of State of Origin set to take place next week, both the Panthers and Cowboys are without a host of star players, who will be on duty at Suncorp Stadium.

The players from both sides will head into their respective camps to prepare for the game, which will in turn present an opportunity for the fringe players to shine.

It is always a testing time for those clubs who have players involved in State of Origin and it will be interesting to see who copes the best.

Two strong sides will still take to the field and the entertainment value should be high as usual, but the end result is a tough one to call.

WhatNorth Queensland Cowboys v Penrith Panthers
WhereQueensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
When20:00 (AEST), Friday 16th June 2023
How to watchChannel 9, Kayo, Foxtel
OddsNorth Queensland Cowboys 2.45, Penrith Panthers 1.56

Panthers find their form

Following a slow start to the 2023 NRL campaign, the reigning premiers have finally found their form when winning the last five games on the bounce.

They slipped to back-to-back defeats against South Sydney Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers, but have been unstoppable since then.

The five wins on the spin have taken them to the top of the ladder, and now the aim of the players stepping in, will be to make sure they consolidate their position.

Coping without Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo and Brian To'o, who are all on duty with New South Wales, will be tough.

However, the players stepping into the side are more than capable of holding their own.

Jack Cogger has already been playing in the halves following the injury to Nathan Cleary, and he will be partnered by Jaeman Salmon, who steps up from the bench.

Tyrone Peachey starts at centre to replace Crichton, while Thomas Jenkins replaces To’o on the wing. Jenkins is priced at 2.05 to score a try at anytime during the game.

The Panthers have won four of the past five games against the Cowboys, but with so many changes and being away from home, it will be a huge test for Ivan Cleary’s side.

Key men out for Cowboys

Like the Panthers, the Cowboys are also missing star men due to Origin. Reuben Cotter, Reece Robson, Valentine Holmes, Murray Taulagi and Jeremiah Nanai are all away and will take some replacing.

There is some good news for the Cowboys however as influential forward Jason Taumalolo is set to return to the side after finally overcoming a knee injury.

Kyle Feldt is also set to return to the wing and he will be key to the Cowboys chances of picking up a crucial win.

Feldt has scored seven tries in his past six games and is priced at 11.00 to grab the first of the game on Friday night.

The Cowboys can take plenty of heart from the fact they came out on top the last time the two sides met. Before that they had lost four on the bounce.

There should also be a good mood in the camp after they put in their best performance of the season in beating Sydney Roosters by 25 points in their last game.

It was a bye for the Cowboys last week so they should also be refreshed and ready to go at a stadium that has been something of a fortress in 2023.

They have won five of their seven games on home soil and are priced at 6.50 to beat the Panthers by 1-5 points.

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