Former Test second-rower Willie Mason was more gentle giant than marauding monster in his first outings for North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday night.

Mason, 29, played half a game in the seconds' 34-24 victory over Queensland Cup outfit Northern Pride and then backed up with another 15 minutes in the Cowboys' 28-6 NRL trial loss to the New Zealand Warriors at Barlow Park in Cairns.

The 24-Test veteran failed to have much impact in the early game, dropping a couple of balls and largely being avoided in defence by the Pride runners.

A couple of bustling hit-ups during the third quarter of the Warriors clash gave a better indication of what Cowboys coach Neil Henry will want to see from his new charge.

Strong defence from both sides, coupled with handling errors on a sodden ground, kept the scores tight for much of the match before the Warriors, who looked the sharper of the two sides, raced away with three tries in the final quarter to seal the win.

The Cowboys appeared lost without Test playmaker Johnathan Thurston, who was a late withdrawal with hamstring tightness, although Cairns product Ray Thompson, Grant Rovelli and Aaron Payne all showed some promise during shared stints in the halfback role.

Henry conceded the Warriors had handled the testing conditions better than his men.

"Credit to the Warriors, they seemed to have a bit more cohesion in their attack," he said.

"We were a bit disappointed with our attack.

"I was very happy with our committed defence in the first half. We need to be a lot more disciplined on the ground. We gave away a lot of penalties."

Henry said Mason hadn't done any contact work prior to the match but he was pretty happy with his effort.

"He was blowing a bit out there, but he enjoyed it and he'll be better for the run."

Warriors mentor Ivan Cleary was pleased with his team's form leading up to the season start.

"On the whole, I was pretty happy with how things went.

"A lot of players are playing well at this stage which is a pretty good sign.

"I thought we got better as the game went on in terms of our direction and the way we wanted to play. Defensively, we were pretty strong."

Cleary said it was likely that returning Queensland State of Origin star Brent Tate would play in the trial match against Manly in Auckland next Saturday night.