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North Queensland Toyota Cowboys under-20s coach Aaron Payne is excited about the team’s upcoming season as he looks to blood a host of youngsters into the National Youth Competition.

With the largest squad in the history of the program – with almost 40 players on the books for the 2017 season – there will be fierce competition for spots ahead of the start of the 2017 NYC season in early March.

And although he lost a number of his talented squad from the successful 2015 and 2016 campaigns, Payne is eager to find out what’s ahead for his group of NRL aspirants.

“Pre-season has been going pretty well. It’s been hot, as you’d expect, but the boys have all come into the pre-season with the right attitude and we’ve been working hard.

“The new guys are learning and understanding the way we play and making those necessary adjustments. I’m excited about the year ahead.”

Payne said the large squad had advantages and disadvantages, but that the volume of players allowed them to conduct quality opposed sessions at training.

“We’ve also been doing opposed with the Townsville Blackhawks, which has been beneficial to our prep,” he said.

Payne said that with players like Coen Hess (Cowboys NRL squad), Darryn Schonig, Taha Tutavake and Nick Lui Toso, he would look to rebuild his core forwards stock through the current intake, but added he had genuine strike power in his outside backs.

The team gets to put all that hard pre-season training into practice this Saturday for the first of three planned trial matches, when they take on the Northern Pride at Innisfail’s Callendar Park.

The match kicks off at 4pm and will give Payne the chance to give a large number of new recruits some game time.

Trials against the Mackay Cutters (Mackay, 11 February) and the Blackhawks (Townsville, 17 February) will follow, before an opening-round match against the Raiders at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday 4 March.

Cowboys NYC v Northern Pride
4pm, Saturday 4 February, Callendar Park, Innisfail

Cowboys: Mick Carroll, Tom Kenny, Kurt Wiltshire, Murray Tualagi, Marshall Hudson, Oscar Carter, Sean Mullaney, Faron Morris, Kyle Paterson, Jack Lote, Brett Anderson, Peter Hola, Jack Glossop, Enemarki Shibasaki, Tom McCagh, Tazman McRobbie, Jack Althaus, Jayden Stephens, Logan Bayliss-Brown, Wyremai Greig. Coach: Aaron Payne.

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.