Cowboys youngster Mitchell Dunn.

After a 2018 season in which he moved from being a half to a forward, young Cowboy Mitchell Dunn is ready to push for a regular starting NRL berth – alongside former halves partner Jake Clifford.

The former North Queensland under 20s halves pairing won't be sharing playmaking duties following Dunn's shift to the back row last pre-season but they could be sharing the field come round one.

The 21-year-old got two games off the bench, in rounds 13 and 19, as injury and Origin wrecked the Cowboys' forward stocks mid-season.

Clifford came in for round 19 following a season-ending injury to Michael Morgan and gained invaluable experience alongside the now-retired Johnathan Thurston in six NRL starts.

On the first day back at pre-season training, Dunn told NRL.com it was about this time last year a move from the halves to the pack was mooted.

"It was pretty much just through the pre-season last year, I always knew I was slowing down a bit and wasn't quick enough to be in the halves so, through the pre-season, a couple of weeks in I started changing into the forwards," Dunn recalled.

"By Christmas, I was training in the back row and getting used to it and I played my first NRL footy in the back row last season."

There were major changes around diet and training to adapt to.

"I think I started last year's pre-season about 96 kilos and played at 100 last year so I had to put on a few kilos and had to get the body right because you do a lot more tackling and running, tackling big guys. That was the hardest part for me," Dunn added.

"It was hard last year but I feel a lot better for it. I know what I've got to do. I've had a little taste of [NRL] and I really want to get there.

"I just physically want to get ready first and get my body right to play first grade. Trying to get into the 17 anywhere I can, you want to be a part of that team, it wouldn't bother me what number I put on my back, I'm just going to try to get a spot."

While Dunn was reluctant to talk up his own chances, he was more than happy to sing Clifford's praises.

"I played a lot of junior footy with him. He had a shoulder injury in 20s, played his first bit of 20s footy last year [2017] and didn't take a step backward," Dunn said.

"He did really well [in 2017] then the year just gone now he stepped up to [Intrust Super Cup] Q-Cup and pretty much did the same there, picked up everything he learned off JT and Morgs and hasn't put a foot wrong, he's playing really good footy and training really hard so it's a credit to him.

Cowboys forward Mitchell Dunn.
Cowboys forward Mitchell Dunn. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"There will be a fair bit of competition there throughout this pre-season to see who's going to nail down those two spots.

"Come trial time it will be good to see who steps up to cement a spot but I think Cliff will do really well after those six games of NRL he played. He'll be able to use that to come into pre-season to try and cement that spot as his.

"He's definitely up to it, it just depends who Greeny [coach Paul Green] wants to put there. Te Maire [Martin] is a really good half as well and he was playing really good footy last season."