Palmerbet Sports Team’s Best of the Day preview breaks down an emotion-charged derby between the North Queensland Cowboys and Brisbane Broncos to kick of NRL Round 22. 

NRL Tips – North Queensland Cowboys V Brisbane Broncos

19:50 (AEST) @ 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville

History: Played 49: Brisbane 32 V North Queensland 15 (2 Draws).

Last Meeting: Round 2, 2018: Brisbane 24 d North Queensland 20 at Suncorp Stadium.

Final Thoughts: Seventh versus 15th on the ladder does not usually generate too much excitement at this stage of the season, but retiring North Queensland Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston’s last derby against the Brisbane Broncos, who have exiting stalwart Sam Thaiday making his 300th appearance, gives this Thursday night clash a blockbuster feel.

It’s been a tough farewell campaign for the incomparable ‘JT’ as North Queensland languish in second-last with a 5-15 record. But rarely have the struggling, injury-depleted Cowboys thrown in the towel.

After a gutsy 20-18 win over Newcastle in Round 20, Thurston led a stirring comeback before the Cowboys eventually went down 26-20 to the heavyweight Sydney Roosters. Six of their last eight losses were by eight points or less.

The Broncos are impossible to get a read on, with their 50-18 demolition of Penrith and gritty 12-10 eclipse of Cronulla bookended by heavy, listless defeats to the Warriors and Canterbury in the past month.

They are still a top-four chance but still haven’t sealed their place in the finals on a congested NRL ladder. Coach Wayne Bennett has moved Darius Boyd back to fullback, with Jamayne Isaako returning to the wing and Gehamat Shibasaki debuting at centre at Jordan Kahu’s expense. Rep forward Josh McGuire is out through suspension.

The Cowboys’ only change sees Corey Jensen slot into Shaun Fensom’s bench spot.

The Broncos ended a five-match losing streak in Townsville with a 20-10 victory in Round 26 last year, while they edged the Cowboys 24-20 in an early-season thriller in Brisbane this year.

The last nine encounters were decided by 1-12 margins, including seven amazing clashes featuring margins of six points or less.

The Broncos are 5-4 on the road this season while the Cowboys are just 3-7 at home.

Brisbane have more to play for in the context of their season, but their erratic form and the absence of McGuire, combined with North Queensland’s recent upswing and the Thurston factor, render the Cowboys an enticing underdog.

Tip: Margin – North Queensland Cowboys 1-12 @ $3.50