BACK-to-back man of the match awards in the Queensland Cup and three successive defeats for the Cowboys has opened the door for troubled halfback Robert Lui to play his first NRL match in 401 days.
Liu will wear the No.7 jersey inside Johnathan Thurston against the Panthers in Townsville tonight, with Michael Morgan relegated to Q Cup.
And dummy half Anthony Mitchell has been recalled, but coach Neil Henry is yet to decide between him and Rory Kostjasyn as the starting hooker.
Henry decided to tweak the line-up he announced earlier in the week after studying videos and having one-on-one meetings with a number of players.
In transit from New Zealand, to meet NRL criteria Henry initially named an unchanged team on Tuesday.
After starting the season as one of the premiership favourites the Cowboys have crashed to three successive defeats and sit third last on the points table.
In their most recent loss, against the previously winless Warriors in Auckland, they surrendered a 12-nil lead.
And while Henry says the players remain upbeat, he conceded he was becoming desperate, hence the late team changes.
"We know we are a good team and we can play footy - it's more frustrating than anything else. We are wasting opportunities with our execution and we need to find consistency," he said.
Townsville-born Lui was released by Wests Tigers towards the end of 2011 after he was charged with assaulting his partner.
He was subsequently signed by the Cowboys on a two-year deal, but sat out all but the first game of 2012 after being suspended by the NRL for the remainder of last season when he pleaded guilty to the assault charge.
Lui appeared in all pre-season trials for the Cowboys and was named on an extended bench for the first three NRL matches, but did not make the final cut.
He has, however, been in outstanding form for the Northern Pride in the Queensland Cup, winning two successive man-of-the-match awards.
But the spotlight tonight won't be just on Lui.
Penrith has axed its experienced No.7 Luke Walsh and replaced him with 14-game rookie Blake Austin.
He will partner another novice, Blackwater Crushers junior Tom Humble, who has played just 23 NRL games.
After being on the road for two weeks, firstly to Newcastle and then to Auckland, the Cowboys will relish a home game.
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