By Lone Scout - NRL Fantasy guru
Michael Morgan returns to the chief playmaker role at the Cowboys in 2019 and the club will be desperate for a full season out of star prop Jordan McLean, while a host of new faces in the backline – headlined by former Dally M winner Ben Barba – should re-energise their attack.
Here are four North Queensland players worth considering for your NRL Fantasy team:
A starting prop for the Kangaroos and one of the best forwards in the game, McLean could finally be about to convert his on-field performances into big Fantasy scores in 2019.
His scoring has improved every season since his 2013 debut at the Melbourne Storm and when he returned in late July after three months off with a foot injury he finally looked like a Fantasy keeper, finishing the season with scores of 48, 64, 56 and 41.
His break even will be a tick under 40 in 2019 but he scored more than 47 points a game after his injury, so if he continues – or improves on – those numbers he'll be a value buy and a borderline keeper in the front row.
Morgan played just 11 games in 2018, with his season ending less than half an hour into the Cowboys' round 15 clash with the Warriors.
He managed eight try assists in that time but his Fantasy scoring was generally down across the board – averaging just 31.4 after scoring a tick under 48 points a game the previous year.
His best Fantasy performances came when wearing the No.7 jersey in the absence of the injured Thurston – he scored an excellent 56.6 when playing at halfback in 2017, and 59.9 if you take out one injury-affected low score in that run.
With a break even of 31 he looms as a steal if he can regain anything like that form following Thurston's retirement.
Another former Storm player and one of the few shining lights in an ageing Cowboys side last year, Hampton may now be ready to shed his 'Mr Fix-It' reputation and lock down a permanent starting spot in 2019.
He played at fullback, centre, off the bench and then back at fullback last season, scoring 29.5 Fantasy points per game.
That average was weighed down by those bench appearances – he scored 15 points a game as an interchange player – while he scored 37.6 as a starter and almost 39 points a game when playing in the centres.
That's where he's likely to play in 2019 after the exits of Kane Linnett and Antonio Winterstein, with new recruit Ben Barba set to fill the fullback role.
An outstanding prospect for North Queensland and man of the match in the Junior Kangaroos' 40-24 win over the Junior Kiwis in October, Clifford looks like a readymade long-term replacement for Johnathan Thurston in the Cowboys' halves.
He played six NRL games alongside Thurston in 2018, scoring a solid 38.7 Fantasy points a game while Te Maire Martin was out with an ankle injury or filling in at fullback.
In his 16 Intrust Super Cup appearances for Northern Pride Clifford's performances were worth 46 points a week.
The presence of Martin is Clifford's main roadblock when it comes to holding down a starting spot, with Michael Morgan a lock for the other halves position and Ben Barba the new first-choice No.1.
But if Clifford can play his way into a starting spot there's plenty of upside for the 21-year-old.
Cowboys player prices & positions:
Jason Taumalolo $821,000, 2RF
Coen Hess $723,000, 2RF
Gavin Cooper $624,000, 2RF
Josh McGuire $591,000, 2RF, FRF
Jordan McLean $564,000, FRF
Jake Granville $538,000, HOK
Ben Barba $521,000, WFB
Matthew Scott $488,000, FRF
Scott Bolton $484,000, 2RF, FRF
Kyle Feldt $476,000, WFB
Nene Macdonald $474,000, WFB
Michael Morgan $450,000, HLF
Ben Hampton $433,000, CTR, HOK
Gideon Gela-Mosby $422,000, WFB
Shane Wright $416,000, 2RF
Corey Jensen $412,000, FRF, 2RF
John Asiata $391,000, 2RF, FRF
Jake Clifford $390,000, HLF
Enari Tuala $364,000, CTR
Mitchell Dunn $358,000, 2RF
Justin O'Neill $354,000, CTR
Ethan Lowe $335,000, 2RF
Te Maire Martin $321,000, HLF
Tom Opacic $310,000, CTR
Francis Molo $228,000, FRF
Javid Bowen $228,000, CTR, WFB
Kurt Baptiste $228,000, HOK
Emry Pere $212,000, 2RF
Murray Taulagi $212,000, WFB