North Queensland coach Paul Green will wait until the Cowboys' final training session before deciding if promising young halfback Jake Clifford makes his NRL debut against the Dragons on Saturday night in Townsville.
Green believes Clifford is ready to play in the top grade after consistently strong performances for the Northern Pride and Queensland under 20 team.
"It's only a matter of time before he makes his debut, given the year he has had," Green said.
"I haven't decided, there are some guys that have got to get through. It's a tough time coming off the back of Origin, guys are carrying niggles.
"He's a young guy ... looking at Saints, they're one of the top sides. You don't want to throw him in the deep end but I've got full confidence if we go that way he'll handle it."
In a year of disappointment for last year's grand finalists, Green has nothing to lose by blooding new players such as Clifford, as the 14th-placed Cowboys are well out of finals contention.
"It's one of the best parts of the job actually, you see these young guys work so hard to get to that opportunity and it is a good thing to do," Green said.
Cowboys v Dragons - Round 19
"The game he played last Wednesday night, he's come back a lot more confident after that. I know it's only under 20s but Maroons v NSW, they haven't won in a while and he was man of the match in that performance too.
"All year he's done what's been asked of him. We talked about spending the year playing Queensland Cup for the Pride and I think he's done a really good job. They've been right up there as a team and I think a lot of that's been off the back of the work he's done."
A former halfback himself, Green has been pleased with Clifford's attitude at training, noting that he fits into the classic playmaker's mould.
"He's a good young kid," he said.
"He's got a bit of cheek about him too which you want in your halfbacks, but he loves his footy and he's always trying to learn."