NRL Rd 2 - Cowboys v Raiders
TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 19: Tom Dearden of the Cowboys in action during the round two NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Canberra Raiders at Qld Country Bank Stadium, on March 19, 2022, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

The North Queensland Cowboys will welcome back Tom Dearden for Round 25 as the club fight for the right to host a qualifying final.

A loss to the South Sydney Rabbitohs last weekend in Sydney has left the Cowboys needing other results to go their way to avoid a trip to Sydney to play the Sharks in Week 1 of the finals.

Should they beat the Panthers in Townsville on Sunday, then they would also need the Sharks to lose to the Newcastle Knights on Sunday afternoon - something that seems unlikely on the surface.

However, a win against the Panthers is well and truly in the offering given reports have emerged suggesting the Panthers will rest up to 13 players for the trip north.

The Cowboys have also received their own shot to the arm with Dearden to return from a ruptured testicle according to Channel 7s Joey Dunlop, with his surgery going according to the best plan possible.

The report suggests Dearden will effectively replace Coen Hess in the side, with the forward to miss one week after being suspended during Saturday's loss to the Rabbitohs.

Dearden will come straight back into the halves, moving Scott Drinkwater back into the number one jumper where he has excelled all season, while Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow will be forced to the bench role that he has been forced to hold for most of the season since returning back from an injury in the opening month of the campaign.

Dearden has been excellent for the Cowboys all year alongside Chad Townsend in the halves, and the club will be sweating on him moving straight back to full fitness and form ahead of the finals push.

The Cowboys are unlikely to rest any players for the match with the Cowboys given the Melbourne Storm could still catch them with a win over the Parramatta Eels on Thursday - a result that would leave the Cowboys potentially travelling to play the Panthers in Week 1 rather than the Sharks.

Teams will be named at 4pm (AEST) on Tuesday afternoon.