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Cowboys 2020 squad analysis - Outside backs

Cowboys.com.au will provide an in-depth positional analysis of the 2020 North Queensland Toyota Cowboys squad. We continue the series with the outside backs, including new recruit Esan Marsters and long-time Cowboys Kyle Feldt and Justin O’Neill.

The players are ranked by their NRL experience with their career numbers of games in brackets next to their name.

>>>> Part 1: Fullback <<<<

Justin O’Neill (167)

The premiership-winning centre returns from a ruptured spleen, which saw him spend upwards of two weeks in a Canberra hospital. O’Neill was in a purple patch of form before suffering the injury in Round 11. The 28-year-old had scored eight tries in as many games, including a memorable double against South Sydney in Magic Round.

Kyle Feldt (114)

Despite missing the first two months of the season, Feldt was the Cowboys leading try scorer for a fourth consecutive season in 2019. Now unquestioned as one of the premier wingers in the NRL, Feldt was rewarded with spots in both the Prime Minister’s XIII and the Australian World Cup Nines squad at the end of the season.

Valentine Holmes (105)

Before transitioning to fullback prior to leaving for the NFL, Holmes was regarded as the best winger in rugby league. All 13 of his appearances for Australia, including a record-breaking six-try performance in the 2017 World Cup, and his five games for Queensland came on the wing.

Ben Hampton (91)

The Cowboys ‘Mr Fix-it’ played both wing and centre for Paul Green in 2019 before suffering a ruptured bicep in Round 10. The 27-year-old has played a myriad of positions during his NRL career, but has made no secret he considers centre has favoured spot.

Esan Marsters (61)

The high-profile recruit has enjoyed a remarkable first three seasons in the NRL. Despite only making his first-grade debut in 2017, Marsters has already played six Tests for New Zealand and is regarded as one of the game’s premier offloaders. The hard-running centre is also a handy goal-kicker, with a career success rate of 71 per cent.

Tom Opacic (38)

Opacic enjoyed a breakout 2019 campaign, scoring seven tries in 19 games. The 25-year-old formed a dangerous partnership with Kyle Feldt on the Cowboys right edge, highlighted by setting up a stunning 80-metre try for Feldt against Penrith in Round 23.

Murray Taulagi (6)

After battling injury for much of the first half of 2019, Taulagi hit his stride in the back half of the season, culminating in an NRL debut in Round 18. A towering 20-year-old outside back, Taulagi made all six of his NRL appearances on the wing, but was outstanding playing centre for Queensland in the under 20s State of Origin showdown with NSW.

Dan Russell (0)

Russell capped off his first year in North Queensland with a Test debut for PNG and was part of the Kumuls’ historic victory over Great Britain. A rangy centre, Russell appeared in the second-row for both the Kumuls and Mackay in the Queensland Cup.

Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (0)

While fullback has been Tabuai-Fidow’s spot throughout his junior football, the 18-year-old has the ability to play wing and starred at centre for the Australian Schoolboys.

Connelly Lemuelu (0)

Lemuelu played every backline position for the Bulldogs reserve grade side in 2019, but the new Cowboys recruit has made it clear he wants to make his name as a centre. Lemuelu has impressed during his first pre-season in North Queensland and will look to push for an NRL debut in 2020.