WHILE the Cowboys and Broncos fight for survival in Townsville on Friday night, two of the brightest young stars on the NRL horizon will be strutting their stuff in the Queensland Cup.
Among a number of changes to both sides for what is being billed a grand final in July for the struggling Queensland teams, Tariq Sims (Cowboys) and Corey Norman (Broncos) have been dumped. Sims will play for the Mackay Cutters and Norman will turn out for Norths.
At Red Hill, coach Anthony Griffin has swung his axe more viciously than at any other time in his three years in the job.
From the team beaten by a point at the hands of the Sharks in round 18 - minus their four Origin players - only four players have been named in their same positions.
In the most significant changes, Josh Hoffman returns to fullback in place of Norman; Alex Glenn moves from the backrow to partner Justin Hodges in the centres; skipper Sam Thaiday is back in the second row to make way for the return of Ben Hannant at prop; and Ben Hunt replaces Peter Wallace at halfback.
Injuries have ruled out Dave Hala (shoulder) and Jordan Kahu (hand).
In a reshuffled Cowboys line-up that welcomes back Origin players Johnathan Thurston, Brent Tate, James Tamou and Matt Scott, Michael Morgan returns at halfback for Robert Lui; Kalifa Faifai Loa replaces the injured Ash Graham; Gavin Cooper is in the second row for Sims and veteran Dallas Johnson, who yesterday announced his retirement at season's end, is back at lock.
While Tariq Sims has been dropped, younger brother Korbin is the replacement for suspended Knights prop Kade Snowden.
The Knights host the Roosters on Sunday, who welcome back Sonny Bill Williams.
Although cleared by the NRL to resume playing, Raiders centre Blake Ferguson has not been named to meet the Dragons on Saturday at Wollongong.
However, it is expected he will play.
In other teams news - co-captains Greg Bird and Nate Myles are back for the Titans, along with centre Brad Takairangi; Ngani Laumape replaces Glenn Fisiiahi on the Warriors wing; despite scoring his first NRL try last weekend, Sea Eagles forward Nick Skinner has been replaced on the bench by George Rose; Sika Manu returns for the Panthers, forcing Lewis Brown to the centres.