NRL 2021 round 11 LIVE updates: Cowboys v Knights at Qld Country Bank Stadium

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Time for players to use their heads …

If you hit a player in the head, you will be sent from the field. The NRL has made it clear that player welfare is paramount.

For proof, look no further than Magic Round; three days of footy, 24 players placed on report, three sent off and 14 sin binned. It was the mother of all crackdowns and head office is making no apologies.

So the players can either bleat and keep getting sidelined or they can get on board. Will be fascinating to see how the players and officials respond in round 11.

JT won’t be dogging it …

Jason Taumalolo is celebrating his 200th NRL appearance tonight. Congratulations. To mark the occasion, somebody brought out his pet dog as he was running onto the field. JT appeared to get pretty emotional. I’ve seen gender reveal parties on the field, but just when you think you’ve seen everything …

Joey calls for Saifiti to channel the Chief …

No one is better qualified than Andrew Johns to explain what needs to happen at Newcastle. So if you haven’t already read his game preview, do yourself a favour as the game kicks off …

Them’s fighting words …

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien was scathing about the culture at the club after last weekend’s loss.

“In hindsight, if I had my time again, I got a bit emotional myself,” O’Brien said just before kick-off.

“It was a learning curve not just for the players but for the coach as well.

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien.Credit:Getty

“The group has trained really well this week and I’m confident we can put in a performance.”

We need a speedometer …

Is the game actually getting faster? The NRL says no. The players are saying yes.

This story, from Adam Pengilly, is proof that 66 per cent of statistics are made up on the spot (or something like that).

Everybody shuffling …

Some big changes to the Newcastle line-up. Tex Hoy was named as the No.1 but has been dropped (18th man), with utility Kurt Mann shifting from five-eighth to fullback. Simi Sasagi will debut in the centres, with Phoenix Crossland and Blake Green the new halves pairing.

Good evening and welcome to Thursday night football …

Magic Round is in the rear-vision mirror, but the focus remains on Queensland as the Cowboys host Newcastle. There is still so much of the season to go, but a win for both teams is vital if they are to remain in playoff contention.

The Knights’ record in the northern state is abysmal; they have not won in Townsville since 2015 and only one of their past 15 games in Queensland. Adam O’Brien’s side is coming off a hiding from the Tigers and another defeat tonight would extend their losing streak to five.

Round 11 kicks off with the Cowboys hosting the Knights.Credit:Getty

They will need to turn around their fortunes without their two biggest strike weapons, Kalyn Ponga and Bradman Best. One key inclusion is the return of veteran half Blake Green.

North Queensland is also coming off a loss, against the Roosters last weekend. The Cows had shown some reasonable form before that result, winning four of their previous five matches.

For what it’s worth, I’m tipping North Queensland, for no other reason than they are playing at home.

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