PERTH, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 14: Scott Drinkwater of the Cowboys runs in for a try during Day 1 of the 2020 NRL Nines match between The Broncos and the Cowboys at HBF Park on February 14, 2020 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 14: Scott Drinkwater of the Cowboys runs in for a try during Day 1 of the 2020 NRL Nines match between The Broncos and the Cowboys at HBF Park on February 14, 2020 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Race for the halves heats up in Cairns

TIME is running out for Scott Drinkwater and Jake Clifford to prove why they deserve first crack at being Michael Morgan's halves partner.

With the opening round of the NRL season fast approaching, the battle for a spot alongside the Cowboys captain is about to get blistering.

It will take centre stage of tomorrow's trial against fierce rivals Brisbane Broncos in Cairns.

The pair have been impressive in pre-season training at Cowboys HQ and both turned in star performances in the victorious Perth Nines campaign.

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Now they will line up side-by-side at Barlow Park in a duel that adds an exciting element to the contest according to assistant coach Josh Hannay.

While Hannay said the playmakers would be encouraged to run the football, ultimately an ability to control the tempo of the match and execute game plans would be what separates the vying duo.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 14: Jake Clifford of the Cowboys runs the ball against Thomas Flegler of the Broncos during Day 1 of the 2020 NRL Nines match between The Broncos and the Cowboys at HBF Park on February 14, 2020 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
PERTH, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 14: Jake Clifford of the Cowboys runs the ball against Thomas Flegler of the Broncos during Day 1 of the 2020 NRL Nines match between The Broncos and the Cowboys at HBF Park on February 14, 2020 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

"I think it has been great for both their individual development as players, one another pushing each other, and at the moment it is a tightly run race," Hannay said.

"Drinky's got some freakish natural talents there that can break a game open, but (for) anyone who wears the seven or six on their back in our football side, control is a really key thing to that.

"The best teams in this competition have halves that can control a game of football so we really stress that point onto our sevens and sixes."

Hannay expects the clash with the Broncos to have "a little more intensity" than a typical trial game, such is the rivalry between the two sides.

The match will give coach Paul Green an insight into other young players eager to make their mark, while the likes of Reece Robson and Reuben Cotter will get the chance to stake their claim to the No. 9 jersey.

It will also be Green's first chance to watch superstar recruit Valentine Holmes in action.

 

NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre-season training at Townsville Football Stadium. Valentine Holmes. Picture: Alix Sweeney
NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre-season training at Townsville Football Stadium. Valentine Holmes. Picture: Alix Sweeney

According to Hannay it was Holmes who approached Green about taking on the Broncos.

Although he is not expected to play more than 30 minutes, Hannay said the hit out would allow the 24-year-old to cast aside any rust that may be present before the season starts.

"I think we were probably looking at keeping him fresh for the following week, but Val probably has itchy feet and wants to get on the park as quickly as he can," Hannay said.

"We're fully away of what Val brings to the table, from what we've seen there's very little rust there.

"He's purring, and I think for him it's going to be really good to get him on a rugby league field and play the game again."

The Cowboys-Broncos trial will kick off at 7pm in Cairns, with Queensland Cup feeder sides Townsville Blackhawks and Northern Pride playing off in a curtain raiser.



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