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Rookie playmaker Jake Clifford is ready and willing to do more for the Cowboys over the final weeks of the club's horror 2018 campaign, though he admitted he was reluctant to call the shots in the presence of superstar teammate Johnathan Thurston in Saturday night's debut against the Dragons.

Clifford's kicking game was excellent and he put a few players into some space, but the young half admitted he was guilty of drifting in and out of the 24-10 home loss.

"I think I took a step back a bit too much," the 20-year-old said after his first NRL game.

"Hopefully if I'm back next week I'll be a bit more dominant. [It was tough to adjust to] the physicality and the speed, as soon as the ruck gets quick it's really quick and you're on the back foot all the time until it slows down again, and physically under fatigue things started to hurt a bit more."

Clifford was glad he got the nod from coach Paul Green to start the game and didn't have to sit with pent up energy before running on.

Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston and coach Paul Green address the media after the loss to the Dragons.
Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston and coach Paul Green address the media after the loss to the Dragons. ©NRL Photos

"It was good to get out there straight away," he said.

"Sitting on the bench would have been a bit nervous and the adrenalin would have drained me a bit but it was good to get out there and the atmosphere was good."

Green is looking forward to seeing Clifford's performances going forward, noting that confidence in the NRL will play a huge part in his development.

"I thought his debut was good. I probably would've liked to have seen him get a little bit more involved to be honest," Green said.

"He's got a good kicking game, we saw parts of it tonight. As he grows in confidence he'll get himself in the game a bit more too."

As for taking too much of a back seat to Thurston, Green said it's all up to the young half to stamp his authority on the game when it's needed.

"We've got to be smart there," he said.

"There's a lot of kick pressure on Johnno, teams always do that, so let's mix it up a bit there and that's up to him. He's got to get his big boy voice out and get the ball."


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.