We're profiling the contenders for each position within the Cowboys' ranks for the 2014 NRL season – here are head coach Paul Green’s options for the wing and centre positions.
He might be only on a year-by-year contract at age 31, but Tate showed again in 2013 why he's still one of the premier outside backs in the game and he’ll be looking to pick up where he left off for season 2014.
With 46 appearances for the Cowboys in his past two seasons, Tate hit the 200-game mark for his NRL career last year and then won man-of-the-match in the series-deciding third State of Origin game.
More rep honours followed with a Prime Minister’s XIII appearance and inclusion in Australia’s World Cup squad.
Tate’s experience is vital in the Cowboys’ backline and he did a great job chaperoning rookie wingers Kyle Feldt and Wayne Ulugia late in the season when NQ were on their finals charge.
He was also able to produce big moments at key times such as the match-winning try against Parramatta and the game’s first points in the do-or-die clash with Souths and against Cronulla in the elimination final.
Linnett didn’t miss a minute of the Cowboys’ 2013 season as he once again held down the left centre position with aplomb.
His average of 110.2 metres per game was the highest among all Cowboys backs who played at least five matches, and he topped his team’s tackle busts for the season with 65.
He also cracked the 100-metre mark on 15 occasions with a season-high 212 metres coming in his two-try effort against South Sydney in round 21.
Now with the experience of playing in the Rugby League World Cup, plus 72 NRL matches, the 25-year-old should be able to push for NSW Country selection this year.
The Samoan World Cup representative prefers playing in the centres but it’s on the left wing where he’s nailed down a first grade spot for the Cowboys so far during his three-year stay.
Of his 59 NRL starts for North Queensland, 44 have been on the wing with his time in the centres largely coming in 2011 when Brent Tate was recovering from his third knee reconstruction.
Winsterstein had another ultra-reliable season, missing just one game after playing in all 26 in 2012.
For the first time, he was the Cowboys’ top try-scorer, bagging 11 four-pointers including a run of seven tries in eight games midway through the season.
He ranked second among the NQ backs in metres per game and topped the linebreak list with 15, as well as being third in offloads and second for tackle busts.
After having a taste of the NRL at the end of last season, Feldt will be eager for more at the start of 2014.
In his debut game, the former Junior Kangaroo picked up 132 metres, three linebreaks and a try assist in the 30-12 win against South Sydney.
Three tries followed in victories against Penrith and the Gold Coast before an ankle injury suffered in a defensive drill in training cost him his NRL place and led to surgery that kept him out of the finals.
Feldt’s goal-kicking talents, which helped him become the NYC’s all-time leading point-scorer, could also come in handy when Johnathan Thurston is on rep duty.
With Ash Graham retired and Kalifa Faifai Loa and Wayne Ulugia no longer with the Cowboys, the pathway to an NRL debut has fewer obstacles for Rona, who is starting his second year in North Queensland.
In his first year out of the under-20s, Rona had played every game for the Mackay Cutters in 2013 until a fractured eye socket cost him the chance to line up in the finals series, as well as a possible wing berth for the Cowboys when Ash Graham and then Kyle Feldt went down with injuries.
The centre/winger scored 12 tries for Mackay and his form earned him selection in the Queensland Residents team that played in the curtain-raiser to Origin III.
Big performances in the trials will further his case for a call-up after an uninterrupted pre-season.
Other options: Michael Morgan, Javid Bowen, Zac Santo, Hezron Murgha.