We're profiling the contenders for each position in the Cowboys' ranks for the 2014 NRL season – here are head coach Paul Green’s chief options at hooker...

RAY THOMPSON

Before his 2013 season was cruelly ended by a double fracture to his jaw from an illegal shoulder charge, Thompson had established himself as coach Neil Henry’s No.1 choice as Cowboys hooker.

It had taken a while for that to happen with several options tried to make up for the loss of Aaron Payne and James Segeyaro from the previous season.

Thompson wore the No.9 in nine of the last 10 matches he played in 2013, including four games in the starting pack during the end-of-season six-match winning streak.

Thanks to the Rugby League World Cup where he played three matches for Papua New Guinea, the 24-year-old has already made it back on to the field to ease the nerves that come with playing again after a serious injury.

CAMERON KING

Signed from St George Illawarra, King has quickly made himself at home in North Queensland and is poised to mount a serious challenge for a place in new head coach Paul Green’s first 17.

He played 11 matches for the Dragons last year, but started only two as he found himself stuck behind Mitch Rein in the dummy-half pecking order.

He was then sidelined by a shoulder injury in late June and underwent surgery that ended his season.

How he performs in the trials, the NRL Auckland Nines if selected, and the last few weeks of pre-season will decide whether he gets a Cowboys jersey as soon as round one.

ANTHONY MITCHELL

The change of coach may be just what Mitchell needs to change his status as a fringe first grader in the Cowboys’ squad.

He spent most of 2013 with the Mackay Cutters and was instrumental in their rise to the premiership, highlighted by his man-of-the-match performance in the grand final victory against Easts in which he poached the final try.

In the NRL, he came off the bench in rounds three and five, started in the Origin-depleted team against Manly in round 18 and last wore an NQ jersey in the round 20 loss to Brisbane.

Once again, he’s been consistently among the leaders in Cowboys fitness testing during the pre-season.

RORY KOSTJASYN

Kostjasyn quickly established a reputation as being one of the Cowboys’ most reliable defenders in the important middle third of the field in his first season with the club.

He played the majority of his 20 NRL matches in 2013 in the dummy-half role, with the bulk of those 11 games coming in the opening half of the season, although he ended up back in the No.9 for the final two matches, and the final against Cronulla, after Ray Thompson was sidelined by his broken jaw.

Also suited to the back-row, Kostjasyn racked up 30 tackles or more five times in the NRL, including twice in those closing three weeks and he went on to play hooker for Ireland in the Rugby League World Cup, topping the tournament’s average tackles per game count with 40+.