Young guns Mitch Dunn, Reuben Cotter, Scott Drinkwater, Shane Wright, Murray Taulagi and Peter Hola will duke it out for 2019 Rookie of the Year honours at the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys Annual Presentation Night on Wednesday.
To be deemed eligible for the award, players must have appeared in less than six career games heading into the season.
Dunn was a regular in Paul Green’s side before a shoulder injury cut his season short in Round 13. In nine games, the Mackay product registered three try assists and averaged 50 running metres and 17 tackles, splitting time between second row and centre.
Cotter overcame three consecutive injury-riddled seasons to make a fairytale NRL debut in 2019. The 20-year-old dummy half made his long-awaited comeback in a pre-season trial and played five top grade games after forcing his way into the side in Round 13.
Drinkwater joined the club as a mid-season recruit from Melbourne and immediately added spark to the Cowboys backline. The 22-year-old fullback scored a brilliant try in his club debut and was consistently one of the Cowboys best at the back end of the season. In 10 appearances, Drinkwater scored three tries and averaged 124 running metres and three tackle-breaks a game.
Wright had to wait until Round 11 to make his 2019 debut, but the Proserpine Brahmans junior wouldn’t relinquish his spot for the remainder of the season. After making his first four appearances from the bench, Wright was moved to the second-row by Green in Round 15 and immediately emerged as a reliable 80-minute option. In 14 games, Wright averaged 74 running metres and 32 tackles.
Taulagi’s NRL debut remarkably came just three years after taking up rugby league. A towering 20-year-old outside back, Taualgi ran for at least 100 metres in four of his six top grade appearances and scored two tries, including a crucial four-pointer in the Round 23 win over Penrith.
Hola was a late addition to the Cowboys 2019 30-man squad, but finished the season as one of the brightest forward prospects in rugby league. The former Junior Kiwis rep set the Queensland Cup alight with the Northern Pride before earning an NRL debut in Round 21 and remained with the Cowboys for the rest of the season.