Here's six things to watch for in the Cowboys v Broncos NRL pre-season trial at Stadium Mackay on Saturday night...
1 Ben Hannant against his old team
The former Test and Origin prop’s first game as a Cowboy is ironically against his former club, Brisbane. Hannant says there’s been some text banter going on with his old teammates in the lead-up to the Queensland derby and he’ll be keen to start his stint with his new club with a big performance in trial one, especially with Matt Scott and James Tamou missing. Hannant’s battle with Josh McGuire should be one of the highlights of the opening 20 minutes.
2 Lachlan Coote’s return
So far, Coote’s on-field time with the Cowboys has consisted of the trial against Brisbane at Redcliffe last year and a few minutes of the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines. After recovering from ACL surgery, he was flying in training towards the back end of last year but kept in reserve to ensure he was 100% right to go in 2015. He’ll wear the No.1 on Saturday and have a great chance to show coach Paul Green why he should be in his squad for round one against the Roosters.
3 The fight for hooker
Three of the main contenders for the Cowboys’ No.9 jersey are in the 23-man squad for the opening trial. Ray Thompson will have the first opportunity to impress after being named to start and then Cameron King and Jake Granville should get plenty of time at dummy-half off the bench. This will be Granville’s first 13-a-side game as a Cowboy and King’s first since rupturing his ACL midway through last year.
4 Lowe versus Tanginoa
With Tariq Sims now in Newcastle, there’s an edge back-row position up for grabs in the North Queensland starting pack – if Jason Taumalolo remains, as expected, in the No.13 jersey. Lowe and newcomer Tanginoa look like being chief contenders. They’re both in the starting pack, and will get lots of minutes, against Brisbane.
5 Morgan/Lui against Hunt/Milford
There’s plenty of attacking guile and speed amongst these four playmakers – all under the age of 25 – who could all play State of Origin football at some point of their careers. Hunt has already stepped up to the Kangaroos and Milford, signing by the Broncos from the Raiders, is one of the most exciting young talents around. He’s already had a couple of big games against the Cowboys in lime green in the past. Morgan, in Queensland’s Emerging Origin squad for the past two years, was exceptional at fullback in 2014 and returns to the halves with JT absent, while Lui will be looking to pick up from where he left off last year when his form was a big reason for NQ charging to the finals.
6 The return of Wayne Bennett and John Cartwright
The “supercoach” is back at the Broncos and this game will give the first real sign of what has changed with Bennett in charge. Like Paul Green, he will care more about how well his team plays rather than the result, although a victory is always nice. For the Cowboys, it’s the first time John Cartwright will fill the assistant coach’s role on game day after joining at the start of the week.