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North Queensland have lost nine on the trot and Sunday's home clash against St George Illawarra represents one of their final opportunities to avoid a club record-equalling losing streak.

If the Cowboys can't get the cash against the Dragons they will almost certainly have to wait until their final-round Queensland derby with Brisbane for another shot at redemption given they face the Storm and Panthers in rounds 18 and 19.

Losing all four games would see North Queensland equal the club's 13 straight losses between round seven and round 21 in 2008.

The Dragons have shown improvement this year but had a two-game win streak snapped when they fell to a shock 14-10 loss to the Gold Coast last Friday just two weeks after upsetting Parramatta.

The rundown

Team news

Cowboys: Tom Gilbert will start in the back-row with Gavin Cooper dropping back to the bench. Jake Granville and Peter Hola were the last two players omitted from the squad. Jake Clifford is recalled in place of halfback Michael Morgan, who is out with a calf injury. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow is back from a hamstring strain on the wing with Valentine Holmes returning to fullback, Scott Drinkwater shifting to five-eighth and Daejarn Asi to the interchange.

Esan Marsters is recalled at centre in place of Connelly Lemuelu. Ben Hampton and Shane Wright were omitted from the reserves on Saturday. The Cowboys have lost their past four games at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

Dragons: St George Illawarra will start 1-17 after Eddie Blacker and Tristan Sailor were the two players dropped from the squad an hour before kick-off. Forward Tyrell Fuimaono returns from suspension in place of Trent Merrin on the bench. Playmaker Ben Hunt will make his 250th NRL appearance. Jayden Sullivan and Max Feagai were trimmed from the reserves on Saturday.

Key match-up

Mikaele Rawalawa v Kyle Feldt: Their respective sides' leading try-scorers won't line up against each other but their ability to conjure a four-pointer could have massive impact on the outcome. Feldt has 13 tries, just one off the lead in that category, and Ravalawa 12.

The Fijian posted consecutive doubles before going tryless in the loss to the Gold Coast while the Cowboys veteran crossed for a brace of his own in last weekend's defeat at the hands of Cronulla to match Ravalawa with three doubles in 2020.

Stat attack

St George Illawarra have had their struggles in recent years but at least they've had the wood on North Queensland. The Dragons are winners of four of five contests since 2016 after claiming the cash just once in their previous six clashes with the Cowboys.