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Cowboys banking on Molo, Hola after veterans exit

The Cowboys farewelled two premiership-winning props in 2019 and coach Paul Green is now looking to a talented group of young forwards to step up.

Retirees Matt Scott and Scott Bolton played 514 NRL games for the Cowboys in careers highlighted by the 2015 premiership before calling it a day last year.

Green is hoping 25-year-old prop Francis Molo can build on a breakout 2019 campaign and 20-year-old front-rower Peter Hola can show further progress after playing five games at the end of last season.

On top of that pair, the Cowboys are also hoping Coen Hess can return to the form that secured him five games for the Maroons in 2017 and 2018.

Then there's 19-year-old middle forward Tom Gilbert who is on the NRL radar after being named Intrust Super Cup rookie of the year while playing for the Townsville Blackhawks in 2019.

North Queensland prop Peter Hola.
North Queensland prop Peter Hola. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

North Queensland have shown their faith in Gilbert by handing him a contract extension until the end of 2022.

Molo was playing 30-plus minutes off the bench by the end of the season and Green is impressed with his development.

"Frank Molo has improved out of sight in the last few years and got our coach's award last year," Green told NRL.com.

"He's always had that physicality about how he plays and he has a good offload and can get good second phase going for us.

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"The thing I like about Frank is that he has worked really hard physically, so his body shape has changed and he's knocking out a lot more minutes and is a lot more reliable to leave out there for longer."

Green said Hola reminded him of a younger version of Molo.

"He got a bit of a taste of NRL towards the back end of the season … and just needs to get used to the pace of the game and that effort on effort stuff," Green said.

"He has good footwork and a good offload in him as well and the experience he had with Tonga in the [World Cup] Nines would have given him a lot of confidence."

Last season was a tough one for Hess, with the 23-year-old losing his Maroons jersey on the back of inconsistent club performances.

Due to injuries, Green was forced into using him in four matches as a centre, a position he won't be playing in 2020 if all goes to plan.

"I think Coen would be the first to admit that he was a bit disappointed in last year, so he will be looking to get back to the form that he showed in previous years," Green said.

"I think he could be a really good edge player or a really good impact middle player for us off the bench.

"I have never suggested for a second that he is a centre but at the time he was probably the best option we had available."