Pathways product Duarne Dempsey gets a chance to build on a stop-start 2016 National Youth Competition debut season when he runs out for the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys against a young Canberra Raiders outfit on Saturday.
Dempsey, 18, was selected in the extended squad on Tuesday, but looks likely to be coming off the bench as relief for starting hooker Calum Gahan after Reuben Cotter was ruled out with injury.
Cotter hurt his knee at training this week, the injury a cruel blow as Saturday’s match was to be his return to the field after almost 12 months out with a torn ACL.
Dempsey now gets his chance to build on his fledgling Cowboys career, the Kirwan State High graduate having played five NYC games in his debut season.
The Mount Isa product was a member of the Kirwan Bears’ all-conquering schoolboys team that won the 2015 national competition with a 28-10 grand final defeat of Patrician Brothers Blacktown.
The North Queenslander came up through the club’s Elite Pathways program, the same development route taken by many regular Cowboys NRL players, including Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo and Kyle Feldt.
“These sorts of selections are a fantastic advertisement for our pathways program, whether it be Duarne, or young blokes like Coen Hess and Gideon Gela-Mosby who are now first grade squad members,” said Cowboys NYC coach Aaron Payne.
Dempsey’s selection aside, Payne is set to field an unchanged team against a Raiders outfit that has remained largely intact after a strong back end to 2016, where they lost just once in the final 10 rounds to sneak into the finals.
And although the Cowboys were bundled out of the 2016 finals race with consecutive losses after finishing the regular season in second place, the 2017 version of the side have had a strong pre-season and are feeling good ahead of a new campaign.
The team lost several players to the Cowboys’ NRL squad, allowing a fresh wave of talent to come through, but they still have genuine strike power in the backs, with Payne eyeing an appearance by classy fullback Kalyn Ponga should Javid Bowen edge the teenager out for a hotly contested left-wing spot in the NRL team.
The NYC Cowboys host the NYC Raiders at 3.45pm this Saturday, 4 March at 1300SMILES Stadium.
COWBOYS NYC: 1. Kalyn Ponga 2. Michael Carroll 3. Enari Tuala 4. Bacho Salam 5. Nathan Traill 6. Mitch Dunn (c) 7. Jake Clifford 8. Kaleb Fuimaono 9. Calum Gahan 10. Emry Pere 11. Cody Maughan 12. Hiale Roycroft 13. Corey Horsburgh 15. Connor Luhan 16. Jayden Stephens 17. Jack Lote 18. Jack Glossop 20. Kurt Wiltshire 21. Ryan Lloyd 22. Duarne Dempsey.