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Drinkwater embraces five-eighth showdown with Clifford

Scott Drinkwater is embracing a "may the best man win" mentality in his duel with Jake Clifford for the Cowboys No.6 jersey.

With captain Michael Morgan at halfback and new signing Valentine Holmes set to line up at fullback, the battle for the five-eighth role is on.

"I've been training at five-eighth. Me and Cliffo have been training there and swapping in and out between teams. It is a little battle that we have got going on at the moment," Drinkwater told NRL.com.

"It is competition, it is healthy and we are still good mates. We are both training our backsides off to be the round one starting five-eighth and it is bringing the best out in us."

The 22-year-old is no stranger to the halves. At Terrigal High School he starred in the halves, leading to Australian Schoolboys selection in 2015.

The Storm then signed him with a view that he would be Cooper Cronk's long-term replacement.

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Drinkwater has gone through plenty of change after moving from Melbourne to the Cowboys last June after missing the start of the season with a pectoral injury.

He impressed at fullback in 10 NRL games for the Cowboys but the signing of Holmes has pushed him back to a position he knows well.

"I have played in the halves for pretty much my whole life until 2018 when I went up to [Storm affiliate club] Easts Tigers and started playing fullback because we had Brodie Croft and Billy Walters in the halves," he said.

Cowboys half Jake Clifford.
Cowboys half Jake Clifford. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"I played in the halves for the Australian Schoolboys with Nathan Cleary so it is a position I am familiar with.

"I think you have to approach it like any other thing, just come in confident and wherever you get put just put your best foot forward and do your best.

"It is about mental resilience. I came up here and they signed Val but I am looking at that as an exciting time for the club.

"For whoever gets that six jersey, it is going to be really handy to have attacking weapons all over the field with Holmes at the back, Esan Marsters in the centres and Morgo, who I think will be back to his best this year."

Drinkwater has a silky passing game, impressive game sense, an intelligent kicking game and a willingness to take the line on. His stint at fullback also showcased his elusive running game.

"That stint at fullback has definitely built my running game up a bit more and given me a lot more confidence to run the footy, so it has been unreal to learn that new position," he said.

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Drinkwater had keyhole surgery on his knee in the off-season but is back in full training and ready to play in the Cowboys trials next month.

There, he intends to make a compelling case to coach Paul Green that he deserves the first crack at five-eighth in round one against the Broncos.