The North Queensland Cowboys have named Kyle Laybutt to make his debut for their Round 14 game against the Parramatta Eels on Saturday in Darwin, with Ray Thompson being rested due to an ongoing injury and Johnathan Thurston named on an extended bench.
The Townsville Blackhawks five-eighth will step into the five-eighth role in the Cowboys side, with Michael Morgan taking the No.7 to guide North Queensland around the park, as he has done in their previous three games.
Laybutt was pressing for a debut earlier in the year, but was hindered by injury. Coach Paul Green is confident he will slot into the team comfortably, having trained with the Cowboys throughout the pre-season.
The young half was also selected in the Queensland Residents team that defeated New South Wales during the representative round.
"He started the season a little bit disrupted with injury… I think he's played really well in that residents game a couple of weeks ago, showed what he's capable of and at some point you've got to find out about these young guys and it's a good opportunity to do that," Green said.
Despite Laybutt being named in the six jersey, Thurston is still a chance to recover for the game, and needs to clear several fitness tests on his shoulder to run out against the Eels.
If the debutant dose play, Green will look to Morgan, Jake Granville and Lachlan Coote to continue to develop as leaders in the team, as they have done in Thurston's absence.
"Without 'Johnno' there, 'Morgo''s role is to lead the team around. I think our last three games in particular have probably been some of our better performances all year," Green said.
"Kyle just needs to play his role in the team, I don't expect him to take over from anyone. Everyone just needs to do their own job and he knows that. I've got full confidence he's able to do that for us."