Tensions rise for Queensland derby
A WAR of words has broken out between the Cowboys and Titans after North Queensland coach Paul Green dared the Gold Coast to try and expose his all-star forward pack.
Green fired back at suggestions from Titans lock Jai Arrow that Cowboys big men Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean were prone to fatigue ahead of Friday night's clash at QCB Stadium in Townsville.
Arrow said on Monday the likes of Taumalolo and McLean could tire and the Titans would try to work them out of the game.
But Green wasn't having a bar of it when asked about the Titans also looking to target young halves Jake Clifford and Scott Drinkwater.
"Not really, it doesn't change what we do," Green said.
"It gives us a bit of information about where they think our weaknesses might be.
"They also mentioned that our forward pack might be a bit of a weakness, so they might want to take us on through the middle.
"We'll see what happens."
Taumalolo was sensational in his last NRL appearance, running for a record 318m in the Cowboys' Round 2 win against the Bulldogs before the season was suspended.
While Arrow praised Taumalolo, his comments have hit a nerve at the Cowboys ahead of the Friday night clash to relaunch the NRL season.
McLean said he was expecting Taumalolo to come out firing.
"I enjoy it when people comment and say stuff about Jase because we know he will turn up and perform when people talk about him," McLean said.
"I'm sure it's lit a fire in him. Hopefully he goes out and runs another 350m.
"You can't really take great players like Jase out - you can only limit what they do.
"When people talk about Jase he always goes out there and plays a great game.
"Moose (Josh McGuire) and I will be by his side and doing our job as well."
Green will hand Mitch Dunn a start in the backrow after veteran Gavin Cooper was ruled out with a calf problem.
Queensland Origin forward Josh McGuire will start in the front row alongside McLean while Clifford will replace injured captain Michael Morgan at halfback.
Meanwhile, former Maroons prop Jarrod Wallace has been relegated to the bench as part of mass changes at the Gold Coast Titans.
Wallace will come off the interchange for only the second time as a Titan in Friday night's clash against North Queensland.
Holbrook wielded the axe on the Titans for the NRL season reboot, making 11 positional changes to the team which was thumped 46-6 by Parramatta in Round 2.
The Titans will have four fresh faces in the team, with Jamal Fogarty, Erin Clark, Shannon Boyd and Keegan Hipgrave to make their first NRL appearances of the year.
Intrust Super Cup gun Fogarty will start at halfback, with Ash Taylor shifting to five-eighth, while Clark will make his Titans debut off the bench as a back-up hooker.
Anti-vaxxers Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly have been dropped to the extended bench after missing crucial training time during the flu-jab saga.
The axing of Wallace to the bench is a significant move by Holbrook, who has proven he will not play favourites at the club.
On a contract worth more than $600,000-a-season, Wallace will come off the pine after Holbrook opted for Moeaki Fotuaika and Sam Lisone to start in the front row.
Fotuaika said the COVID-19 shutdown had given him two months to overcome wrist and knee injuries and he was ready for the starting challenge.
"I got the all-clear to go so I'm looking forward to it, it will be a big challenge," he said.
"They are definitely a big forward pack and get their backs and halves on the front foot. We have a big job to do on them.
"I didn't really have the best pre-season I wanted due to my injuries,
"The break we've had has definitely helped me a lot.
"I've been able to get my knee and wrist right and put on a bit of weight to make sure I'm able to mix it with the big boys in the middle.
"I'm glad we had that break. I'm 100 per cent now with both injuries."
Originally published as Tensions rise for Queensland derby