Despite being without three of their most experienced players from last season, Toyota Cowboy Brent Tate says there will be no lack of leadership in the 2014 North Queensland NRL squad.
Back in training this week following his break after the Rugby League World Cup, Tate is now part of a much smaller group of older Cowboys thanks to the retirement of Dallas Johnson and Ash Graham and Matthew Bowen’s departure for Super League with Wigan.
All three had played in excess of 200 NRL matches with Johnson and Bowen also vastly experienced at the representative level.
Another 200-gamer, hooker Aaron Payne, retired just 12 months earlier.
Tate is now one of only three players in the Cowboys squad over the age of 30, but says there are several teammates capable of stepping up into more senior leadership roles in 2014.
“There were almost 1000 games of football in those guys and it is a lot to replace,” the Queensland and Kangaroos back said.
“I think we’ve got some guys who are on the verge of becoming leaders in our group.
“Someone like Ray Thompson has been around for a long time and then there’s Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall who are experienced guys who I’m sure will be putting their hand up to help lead the group because we’re going to need it.”
Tate, who is yet to make a decision on his representative future, said it was up to each member of the Cowboys’ 31-man NRL squad to prove over the next few weeks why they should be in the final 17 for the round one clash against Canberra on Saturday 8 March.
There’s just over three weeks of training remaining before the first pre-season trial, which coach Paul Green says is likely to be used to give the less experienced members of his squad the chance to impress.
“We’ve all started with a clean slate with a new coaching staff,” Tate said.
“We’ve all got to earn our stripes and that goes for us (the established senior players) and those who are just coming into the squad.”