Gavin Cooper faces a battle to retain his place in the Cowboys starting forward pack for Round 1. Copyright: Shane Wenzlick/NRL Photos Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
It may have been jettisoned by the Australian cricket team but Cowboys coach Paul Green will employ a 'horses for courses' attitude as he tries to whittle down his squad to the 17 who will take the field in Round 1.
Other than who will wear Matt Bowen's old No.1 jersey against the Raiders next week, the greatest selection headache facing Green is – and it's a good one – who will be in the back row in the starting forward pack.
With Matt Scott, Ray Thompson and James Tamou a lock to be the starting front row, Green is using a four-day camp on the Gold Coast to finalise which three out of Gavin Cooper, Glenn Hall, Jason Taumalolo, Tariq Sims and Joel Riethmuller gets the nod.
Taumalolo and Sims have been the starting second-rowers in both full trials to date but Green said that whoever is named in the starting side next Tuesday won't have a mortgage on the position.
"It comes down to what sort of game we want to play and that is also determined by our opposition and what style of game they play as well," Green said from the Cowboys' temporary base at Royal Pines.
"There are a couple of different options for me there depending on whether I want to go more mobile or whether I want to play more of a power game with some big guys. We'll have a good look at that over the next week.
"There are probably 20 that are in the mix at this stage and we'll see how this week pans out and that will go a long way to determining who is going to be playing Round 1."
While it would be easy to get wrapped up in the explosiveness and athleticism that Sims and Taumalolo bring to a team, Green was full of praise for the way Cooper and Hall had conducted themselves through the pre-season.
With 11 members of the NRL squad away on World Cup duty until early December, the likes of Hall and Cooper took an additional responsibility, with Cooper captaining the side to its Auckland Nines triumph.
"Gavin Cooper's been great in that area and Glenn Hall also," Green said of the disrupted pre-season. "[They are] two guys who have plenty of experience under their belts and they really stepped up in the absence of all the World Cup guys and they've had a really good pre-season.
"With the disrupted start we had it was just a good opportunity to get the full squad together for a few days of solid work [on the Gold Coast].
"It's a good opportunity to work on some combinations, to get some of our teamwork down pat and just to spend some quality time together away."
The Cowboys' triumph at the inaugural Nines tournament was book-ended by impressive trial wins over the Broncos (32-8) and Titans (28-12) and has them as sixth-favourite to be premiers at $15 with Sportsbet.com.au but Green knows their best is yet to come.
"We're going to obviously prepare as well as we can," he said of the season-opener. "I don't think our whole game will be as good as it can be with not having spent enough time with each other as our whole group but I'm certainly happy with our trial form so far.
"It's been good without being great and there's some room for improvement there which hopefully we can get out of this week."