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Laybutt learning on the job as Cowboys push for finals

Cowboys youngster Zac Laybutt is only three games into his NRL career, but showed no qualms about filling in for one of the biggest names in the game as the Cowboys kept their finals campfire flame flickering with a big win against the Dolphins on Friday night.

Playing in the centres with Valentine Holmes still serving out a four-match suspension, Laybutt scored his first NRL try in the 10th minute and then backed it up soon after with his second in the 34th, producing an impressive individual display.

“I don’t usually score those sorts of tries, I usually more of a passer, I like setting the wingers up for tries, but I saw the space, and saw the opportunity, so I thought I should take it,” Laybutt said.

“I didn’t think I could burn Hammer (Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow) on the outside, so I had to beat him on the inside.”

Zac Laybutt gets his first career double

Coach Todd Payten had high praise for Laybutt, who played 15 games with the Townsville Blackhawks this season, after the game.

“Zaccy can play, he’s a real natural footballer, can cover a few positions,” Payten said.

“(He is a) good defensive (player), good tackler, he’s really skilful. He’s really respectful, he works really hard at his game and players like having him in the team.

“I think he’s a first grader for a long time for our club, he’s just got to keep his head down, work really hard and get the benefit of some hard work and coaching.”

Laybutt, who played in the halves in the Queensland Murri team in 2018 alongside Reece Walsh, made his NRL debut in Round 13 this year, and made an impression with his commitment to defence.

Standing at 190cm tall, it is hard to get out of his reach, with his defence coming to the fore in the game against the Dolphins.

Dearden desperate in defence

The younger brother of former Cowboy and PNG Kumuls fan favourite Kyle Laybutt who has earned kudos for his big hits on the international stage, the Bundaberg-born talent said defence was something was always keen to improve.

“Youngy (Dean Young) is a great coach here at the Cowboys and his defensive principles and the way he goes about his job really helps me,” Laybutt said.

“It makes it easier for me, and I work a lot on my defence with him and it's good to have someone like that in the back pocket.”

With the Cowboys featuring in a yet another must-win game next week against the Panthers, Laybutt is in line to be picked to face them again, having featured in the Round 16 extra-time win, with Holmes only able to play again this season if the side made the finals.

Laybutt, who will be pushing his case to get more games in the centres next year with the departure of Peta Hiku on a three-year deal with Hull KR, said Holmes had been another big influence on his game.

“He’s been at training all the time still, he's good, him and Muz (Murray Taulagi) have a good combo together and they talk a lot, that’s all they do those two, so it's always good to get advice of them,” Laybutt said.

“Hopefully, I can just play consistent footy and, stay in the team and hopefully Toddy picks me (next week).”

Cowboys travel to Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium on Saturday afternoon for their Round 27 match.


Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.