Jake Clifford won’t start in the halves for the Cowboys in the first rounds of the 2019 season. Picture: Zak Simmonds
Jake Clifford won’t start in the halves for the Cowboys in the first rounds of the 2019 season. Picture: Zak Simmonds

Cowboys’ halfback sensation misses out as Martin wins halves battle

North Queensland coach Paul Green will overlook promising youngster Jake Clifford to open the NRL season in favour of experienced halves Michael Morgan and Te Maire Martin.

Clifford was tipped to get first crack at the No.7 jersey left vacant by retiring great Johnathan Thurston after impressing during his six NRL games late in the 2018 season.

He was also named halfback of the year in the Queensland Cup, starting five-eighth in the Prime Minister's XIII's win over Papua New Guinea in October, and captain in a Junior Kangaroos win over the Junior Kiwis, where he was man of the match.

But Green says he needs more consistency from the 21-year-old before he nails a starting jersey.

"I just want to see him continue to improve," Green told AAP.

"That was one of the silver linings of having the season that we did last year, as toward the back end of the year we could give a few young guys some experience without the pressure of the finals being around the corner.

"It was a great learning curve for him and he understands what it takes to be a consistent NRL player and to be fair he did really well but he was probably a bit off the pace at different times."

With ex-Bronco Jordan Kahu this week signing as a replacement for axed fullback Ben Barba, Morgan no longer needs to be his team's Mr Fix-it.

In an injury-riddled last season he played there for three games as well as in the Queensland State of Origin team for game one.

Green said Morgan was his first-choice No.7 partnering Martin however he was open to switching players and positions to include Clifford.

"Long-term playing in the halves is (Morgan's) best position but also we've got to do what's best for the team, given everything," Green said.

"Cliffo might come out and be in great form to start with so I can't ignore that either."

North Queensland will play a trial against Gold Coast at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Cowboys will name their captain at their season launch next month with Morgan tipped to take on the role solo after Thurston and Matt Scott shared duties last season.

 

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News Corp Australia


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