North Queensland Cowboys veteran Gavin Cooper says he's taking a back seat at pre-season training with the club's younger players more vocal as the team prepares for the 2017 season.
Cooper, who made his State of Origin debut for Queensland this year at the age of 30, said he has been impressed with the signs of leadership shown by the Cowboys' younger players – including new recruit Ben Hampton from the Storm.
"It's been tough. The boys have set a good standard – the young guys that have been there throughout the entirety of the pre-season so far, they've set a good standard," Cooper told media on the weekend.
"I've just tried to jump back in at the back of things and not say too much now – there's a lot of young guys who have come in and are voicing themselves on what it takes to get around the training paddock, and they've been really good so far.
"So I'm trying not to be the cranky old man.
"I have been making a conscious effort not to say as much as I'd like to – just to let the boys grab the reins and run with it.
"Even Benny Hampton – he's only been here three weeks, and he's obviously come from a great winning culture and a great team in Melbourne and he really likes to talk, he's not afraid of asking a question where a lot of guys might shy away from it. So he's learning a new system and I'm really impressed with how he's going."
While new Cowboys assistant coach David Fairleigh praised the decision of Kangaroos star Michael Morgan to make an early return from the Four Nations to join pre-season NRL training, Cooper had some different advice for his teammate.
"Go get some sun. How white was he? Seriously," Cooper laughed.
"It's good to see that he wants to keep in some kind of shape – I just want him to look after his skin. Get some 50+ on there or something."