North Queensland are confident they don't need Todd Carney after the controversial former Dally M Medal winner's walkout on the club because they've got faith in rising star Jake Clifford.
Carney's walk-out on a three-year deal with Intrust Super Cup club the Northern Pride, has on the face of it, come at the worst possible time for the struggling Cowboys who had been in the process of trying to get a contract for the former NSW five-eighth registered with the NRL.
However, the 31-year-old's decision to leave for Sydney due to family reasons has opened the door for Clifford to fast-track his own development.
The highly regarded 20-year-old rising star, who was playing alongside Carney in the halves for the Northern Pride, was the National Youth Competition player of the year in 2017 and is regarded by the Cowboys as the best halfback in the Intrust Super Cup.
Cowboys general manager of football Peter Parr told NRL.com recently the club had extended Clifford's contract until the end of 2020 as they prepare for life after Johnathan Thurston.
Ipswich Jets co-coach Shane Walker also told NRL.com how Clifford had posed far more of a threat than Carney in 2018 and that is a view shared by the Cowboys.
The Cowboys are confident that if he had to play in the Telstra Premiership later this year he would be able to handle it.
Carney, who had been training with the Cowboys while he was playing for the Pride, informed Parr on Monday that he was leaving the region.
"Todd rang me and said that because of family reasons he needed to move back towards Sydney to spend more time with his mother and sisters," Parr, who is also on the board of the Northern Pride, told NRL.com.
"He said he needed to make a decision that wasn't based on football, and move. He didn't ring up to discuss it. He rang up to tell me that he was going.
"We are disappointed. We have to accept that is what he's going to do, but we have options and it doesn't change a lot for us.
"We thought Todd would provide us good depth in a key position but at the moment we've got Johnathan and Michael Morgan in the halves, Te Maire Martin playing off the bench and one of the best players in the Intrust Super Cup at the moment in Jake Clifford."
The Cowboys were prepared to give Carney an opportunity and spent a lot of time and resources on facilitating his return to the NRL and believed they were close to getting a positive result.
"We had some good dialogue with Todd Greenberg and Nick Weeks in relation to Todd Carney," Parr said. "My expectation was that they would register the contract with a set of conditions attached. My own view on it was that we were close to getting a registered contract but Todd has decided to go in another direction."
There have been reports that Carney may emerge in Sydney with an Intrust Super Premiership side.
For that to happen Carney would need the Northern Pride to grant him a release.