The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Under-20s team have had a boost heading into their Round 11 clash with the Sharks with news that classy centre Enari Tuala will join the club’s full-time NRL squad next year.
Cairns product Tuala, 18, follows current Cowboys National Youth Competition teammate Jake Clifford into the club’s main squad from next season, the teenager agreeing to a two-year deal.
“It’s always pleasing to see your players perform well enough to earn an NRL contract, and with Jake and Enari, Greeny [Cowboys head coach Paul Green] is getting two very talented young men with bright futures,” Cowboys NYC coach Aaron Payne said.
“With these blokes signing, it’s also a huge tick for our Elite Pathways program.
"In these two cases, we’ve brought two North Queensland products into our system, guided them, developed their talent and now they’ve earned NRL contracts.
“Both young men have a journey ahead of them and they’ll be looking to repay that faith shown in them by the club with continued strong performances for the remainder of the 2017 NYC season and beyond.”
Tuala and Clifford headline a strong NYC Cowboys team travelling to take on the second-placed Sharks on Thursday, with Payne’s men keen to arrest a worrying three-game losing streak that has seen them drop to fifth on the ladder with a six-win, four-loss record.
The Sharks (seven wins, two losses and a draw) haven’t dropped a match since Round 4, which has been the only match this year where they have scored less than 30 points.
“They have got plenty of attack in them, so we’ll need to be on our game defensively,” Payne said.
Clifford is due to return from a groin injury, while Payne will also have the services of NRL squad member Kalyn Ponga at his disposal.
The game at Southern Cross Group Stadium kicks off at 5.10pm.