With the Cowboys and Panthers both missing a stack of key players due to Origin, Friday's clash shapes as a test of the depth both clubs have at their disposal.
While North Queensland will take the field refreshed from a Round 15 bye, the Panthers head to Townsville on the back of a comprehensive, but physically taxing, 30-6 victory over the Roosters.
Penrith haven't lost a game in six weeks, while the Cowboys' last performance – a 45-20 win over the Storm – was arguably their best of the season.
At Queensland Country Bank Stadium this year the Cowboys have won five of seven games and they were winners the last time they faced the Panthers too.
Prior to that they'd lost four on the trot against the back-to-back premiers.
Sportsbet Betting Preview - Cowboys v Panthers
Cowboys: After a couple of false starts in recent weeks, key forward Jason Taumalolo is back from a knee injury. In a game day switch Taumalolo has gone to the bench and Jamayne Taunoa-Brown will start the match. Kulikefu Finefeuiaki joins the bench alongside mid-season signing Sam McIntyre, who will make his club debut. Zac Laybutt fills in at centre, Jake Granville is the new starting hooker and Kyle Feldt returns on the wing after being 18th man in North Queensland's last game.
Panthers: No further changes on game day after Spencer Leniu came into the starting side on Thursday for Moses Leota, who remained in Sydney for the birth of his third child. Liam Henry joins the bench. With Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo and Brian To'o all included in the NSW team for Origin II, Ivan Cleary has been forced into a number of changes. Jaeman Salmon moves in from the bench to partner Jack Cogger in the halves, while Tyrone Peachey starts at centre and Thomas Jenkins joins the squad on the wing. Matthew Eisenhuth starts at lock and Luke Garner is included on the bench for his first NRL game since Round 4. Zac Hosking returns from being rested last week.
Match: Cowboys v Panthers
Round 16 -
Fullback for Cowboys is number 1 Scott DrinkwaterFullback for Panthers is number 1 Dylan Edwards
Winger for Cowboys is number 2 Kyle FeldtWinger for Panthers is number 2 Sunia Turuva
Centre for Cowboys is number 3 Zac LaybuttCentre for Panthers is number 3 Izack Tago
Centre for Cowboys is number 4 Peta HikuCentre for Panthers is number 4 Tyrone Peachey
Winger for Cowboys is number 5 Semi ValemeiWinger for Panthers is number 5 Tom Jenkins
Five-Eighth for Cowboys is number 6 Tom DeardenFive-Eighth for Panthers is number 6 Jaeman Salmon
Halfback for Cowboys is number 7 Chad TownsendHalfback for Panthers is number 7 Jack Cogger
Prop for Cowboys is number 8 Jordan McLeanProp for Panthers is number 10 James Fisher-Harris
Hooker for Cowboys is number 9 Jake GranvilleHooker for Panthers is number 9 Mitch Kenny
Prop for Cowboys is number 10 Coen HessProp for Panthers is number 16 Spencer Leniu
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 11 Luciano Leilua2nd Row for Panthers is number 11 Scott Sorensen
2nd Row for Cowboys is number 12 Heilum Luki2nd Row for Panthers is number 12 Zac Hosking
Lock for Cowboys is number 16 Jamayne Taunoa-BrownLock for Panthers is number 13 Matthew Eisenhuth
Interchange for Cowboys is number 13 Jason TaumaloloInterchange for Panthers is number 14 Soni Luke
Interchange for Cowboys is number 14 Sam McIntyreInterchange for Panthers is number 15 Lindsay Smith
Interchange for Cowboys is number 15 Griffin NeameInterchange for Panthers is number 17 Luke Garner
Interchange for Cowboys is number 17 Kulikefu FinefeuiakiInterchange for Panthers is number 19 Liam Henry
Replacement for Cowboys is number 18 Brendan ElliotReplacement for Panthers is number 18 Jack Cole
- Referee: Peter Gough
- Touch Judge: Phil Henderson
- Touch Judge: Liam Kennedy
- Senior Review Official: Gerard Sutton
- The Cowboys average 13.4 dummy-half runs per game, the most in the NRL, while the Panthers sit second to last in that category, averaging 5.3 per game.
- The Panthers have won four of their past five games against the Cowboys.
- Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt has scored seven tries in his past six games.
- The Panthers have conceded just seven tries in their past five games.
- The Cowboys have conceded over 200 points more than the Panthers after 15 rounds.
Match: Cowboys v Panthers
Round 16 -
Venue: Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Stats supplied by David Middleton, League Information Services, author of the official annual of the NRL.