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Cowboys fullback Valentine Holmes.

Valentine Holmes needs to keep reminding himself to back his own running game with the North Queensland star believing he must stick to his natural strengths to join the elite fullbacks in the NRL.

Holmes had to fight his way into the No.1 jersey at the Cowboys after new coach Todd Payten opted to start the season with Scott Drinkwater at fullback and shift the Queensland Origin representative to the wing where he built his career and starred last year for the Maroons.

The 25-year-old former Sharks premiership winner has started to hit top form in recent weeks, his try assist, six tackle breaks, 191 metres and line break in the loss to Sydney Roosters on Saturday a sign of what is to come as he adapts to the role.

Holmes now has five try assists for the season but feels like he needs to adopt a run-first, pass-second mantra to become an even greater attacking threat.

"I just think I need to back my running game more," Holmes told NRL.com.

Holmes bumps off Walker to release Drinkwater

"I used to watch a bit of Billy Slater and now I watch what they all do, especially guys like Teddy (James Tedesco) and (Ryan) Papenhuyzen.

"They've all got such good strengths but I don't try to copy what they do, I just try to focus on what I know I can do well."

It was actually that Ampol State of Origin series last year that put Holmes on the back foot in the battle for the No.1 jersey, his delayed start to the pre-season giving Drinkwater a head start in the positional battle.

Match Highlights: Roosters v Cowboys

But the premature retirement of Michael Morgan meant Drinkwater got to move into his preferred five-eighth position and with both players now firmly settled into their new roles it's a combination Payten can see merit in taking the club forward.

Payten praised both men for the way they've settled into their roles and only expects the livewire duo to get better in the coming weeks as the Cowboys host games against Newcastle and the Warriors ahead of the bye.

"I think [Holmes] is getting better from week to week," Payten said.

"The running game and I think his motor is getting better. He is adapting physically to being a fullback with his workload.

"Scotty is growing into the role. He played a lot of fullback and he is that X-factor for us.

"His involvement as a player is around the responsibility and direction of our team.

"He is improving, he wants to get better, he is seeking the coaches through the week and he has taken on that responsibility and that is why his game is improving."

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