With five players departed for Origin duty and two regular starters out injured, Round 17 signalled the Cowboys' most active team selection Tuesday in many years.
The Maroons stripped coach Paul Green's leadership group to bare bones as veteran Gavin Cooper joined co-captains Matt Scott and Johnathan Thurston at Monday's camp, while Green has named a plethora fledgling talent in the stopgap 17-man side.
Canberra product and Mackay Cutters star Josh Chudleigh finally makes his NRL debut after 18 months with the Cowboys, while Ben Spina and hard-luck story Tautau Moga get their first NRL call-ups this season.
Experienced utility Rory Kostjasyn is the Cowboys' fourth-most capped player behind Ben Hannant, Antonio Winterstein and Lachlan Coote, and will take the field as captain for the first time in his NRL career.
"Rory has the 'C' next to his name next week, and it is a huge chunk [of leadership that is absent], but that's what happens this time of the year so there is no point whinging about it," Green said.
"It's the biggest representation we've had in an Origin, plus we've also got a couple of injuries at the moment. We'll battle through.
"That's the trade-off, you lose those guys and it disrupts what we're trying to do here but the benefit is that they have the experience of being around the best players in that environment.
"You hope that what they learn in those camps and with that team, they bring back here and make sure they implement back here, which lifts our level of professionalism too."
With any NRL opportunity comes a chance to impress, but rather than overplay their hands, players are being told that a high level of effort is the primary focus.
"You hope those guys seize the opportunity they've got and put their best foot forward. The main thing for those [more inexperienced] guys is the energy and enthusiasm," Green said.
"It's a chance for those guys regardless of who is here [next year] or not. That has nothing to do with it. For those guys it's important that they don't waste the opportunity."
Monday's game in Canberra is a peek into the Cowboys' future not only in the talent stakes, but also in leadership.
Kyle Feldt and Ethan Lowe have both had a taste of the Queensland Maroons' environment as injury cover and 18th man respectively, and Green is expecting both to step up this week.
"You need those [experienced] guys to step up, and also the guys who have been in and around Origin this year, like Ethan Lowe and Kyle Feldt," he said.
"They've had a bit of a taste of what it's like being in camp, so I'd like to see those guys who are a little bit younger than [Kostjasyn, Hannant and Bolton] lead in their own way as well."