NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre season training at Townsville Football Stadium. Scott Drinkwater. Picture: Alix Sweeney
NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre season training at Townsville Football Stadium. Scott Drinkwater. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Cowboys set up to take the game to Broncos

NRL Nines star Scott Drinkwater has won the race for the Cowboys No.6 jersey as the club looks to add another threat in attack for Friday's season-opening Queensland derby with the Broncos.

It comes as North Queensland coach Paul Green declared 2020 is a "new era" for the club as they begin life at their new home ground - the Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

"It's the start of a new era for our club and it's exciting," Green said. "Our players need to make sure they focus on what they need to focus on.

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"(I've told them to) concentrate on the things you need to concentrate on. Embrace the atmosphere and enjoy it but don't get too caught up in it either."

The Cowboys will unveil a completely revamped backline from 2019, led by new recruit Valentine Holmes in the No.1 jersey.

Premiership winner Kyle Feldt and the versatile Ben Hampton have secured the wing spots, while Justin O'Neill and new recruit Esan Marsters have been named in the centres.

Green admitted there had been "some tough decisions" in picking their top 17, which saw young gun Jake Clifford and former Bronco Tom Opacic omitted from the starting side.

Drinkwater was picked over Clifford to partner captain Michael Morgan in the halves this weekend as Green looks to add another element of attack to the Cowboys pack.

Valentine Holmes’ NRL comeback will be hugely scrutinised. Photo: Mike Owen/Getty Images
Valentine Holmes’ NRL comeback will be hugely scrutinised. Photo: Mike Owen/Getty Images

"He was probably playing with a little bit more confidence," Green said. "He was a little more consistent.

"That was a tough decision. There were a couple of tough decisions we had to make.

"(Drinkwater's) form through the trial period and the Nines was a little more consistent.

"It will make us a little more threatening in attack. It'll give us some attacking threats right across the park."

Three of the past four clashes between the Broncos and Cowboys have been decided by a margin of four points and Green is hoping to make the most of every pointscoring opportunity.

He has appointed Holmes to take on the goalkicking duties with back-up kickers Marsters and Kyle Feldt also on standby.

Holmes’ boot will take the lead. Photo: Mike Owen/Getty Images
Holmes’ boot will take the lead. Photo: Mike Owen/Getty Images

"(Holmes) has hit them well all pre-season," Green said.

"It's an area where we were lacking a little bit all last year but we've got the choice of a few goalkickers this year.

"Esan Marsters is a good goalkicker. Kyle Feldt has been doing some good practice. We've got a few options there."

Utility forward John Asiata will don the No.8 North Queensland jersey made famous by retired club veteran Matt Scott.

Former Dragons rake Reece Robson will become the club's newest No.14 supersub to add some danger out of dummy-half.



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