Wests Tigers v North Queensland Cowboys
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 27 - Wests Tigers 15, North Queensland 12
AT 1300SMILES STADIUM: Played 13 - Wests Tigers 4, North Queensland 9
LAST TIME: 2013 - Wests Tigers 22 defeated North Queensland 20 at Leichhardt Oval
BIGGEST HEAD TO HEAD WINS:
Wests Tigers 50 defeated North Queensland 6 at ANZ Stadium, 2005
North Queensland 42 defeated Wests Tigers 14 at 1300SMILES Stadium, 2009
Benji Marshall v Johnathan Thurston
One of the great duals over the past decade comes to an end this Saturday as Benji Marshall marks up on Johnathan Thurston for what could be the final time.
Marshall will play his final game for the Wests Tigers against 2005 Grand Final opponents North Queensland in somewhat of a fitting farewell. The New Zealand International looked dangerous last week against Souths, making a line-break in the early stages that led to Tim Simona crossing for the first try. In a special occasion at Allianz Stadium, Marshall played his 200th NRL match and was awarded an inaugural Wests Tigers Life Membership along with captain Robbie Farah.
Thurstons season has had plenty of highlights, including leading Queensland to their eighth straight victory over New South Wales. While a mid-season form slump from the Cowboys looked as though they would miss the finals, Thurston (along with Bowen and co.) has been instrumental in a late charge. Thurston needs another victory to secure a spot in the finals, with the Cowboys winning five-straight going into this week. In somewhat of an upset last round against Cronulla, Thurston slotted five goals and a field goal to secure victory. Depending on World Cup selection, the clash between two of the great five-eighths of the modern era could come to an end at 1300 SMILES Stadium.
Keith Galloway v James Tamou
Its the battle of the giants once again this weekend, as two monster forwards clash in the middle Keith Galloway and James Tamou.
Since returning from a pectoral injury, Galloway has been a standout amongst the Wests Tigers forwards. Adding experience to the youthful pack, three out of his past six games have been over 100-metre efforts. Galloway has also been playing big minutes with his last four matches being close to 60 minutes each. With Aaron Woods missing the backend of the season, Galloway has stepped up to fill the void alongside Adam Blair. One of the few Wests Tigers players not to score a try this year, Galloway will be desperate to add to his nine try career tally in the final game of 2013.
Over the past two seasons James Tamou has become one of the best forwards in the NRL, making a name for himself on the representative stage with both Australia and New South Wales. At just 24-years old, Tamou is just two games away from playing his 100th NRL match. 2013 has been another impressive year from the towering prop forward, averaging 146 metres per game. Tamous match-up with fellow tall-timber Galloway will no doubt be one of the best front-row match-ups this season.
James Tedesco v Matt Bowen
Two quality fullbacks at opposing ends of their careers come up against one another this week, with young gun James Tedesco facing off with the experienced Matt Bowen.
Tedescos run of form over the past few weeks has caught the eye of many Wests Tigers fans. The Camden Rams junior made a career-high 190 metres against South Sydney last week, earning him the Krispy Kreme Man of the Match award (voted by supporters on the Clubs social media followers). Tedesco is known for his outstanding support play with his try last week a perfect example; backing up after a line-break from Ben Murdoch-Masila and going over untouched. Averaging 113 metres per game, Tedesco has also made four line-breaks in his past three matches. Tedesco will look to finish the season strong as he comes up against Matt Bowen and a desperate Cowboys outfit looking to secure a finals birth.
After 12 seasons at the Club, this year will be Bowens last at the Cowboys. In his 268-game career at the Cowboys, Bowen holds the record for the most tries for the Club (128). 2013 has been a rollercoaster ride for Bowen, with the fullback hitting form last week against the Sharks. Bowen made 127 metres and scored two tries in the 31-18 victory. His combination with Thurston will have to be watched closely by the Wests Tigers defence, with the pair having a knack for creating something out of nothing.