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Cowboys utility Te Maire Martin will be forever inspired by retired legend Johnathan Thurston.

New Zealand international Te Maire Martin is the front-runner to partner Michael Morgan in the halves in 2019 as North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green prepares to make two crucial calls in the post-Johnathan Thurston era.

The retired Cowboys legend will leave a massive void in both the halves, where he was a dominant force for the Cowboys in 14 seasons, and as a leader.

Martin and rising Queensland under 20s star Jake Clifford are the contenders to partner a fit Morgan.

Martin's partnership with Morgan at the back end of 2017, when Thurston was injured, was critical in the Cowboys' push towards the grand final.

Last season the 23-year-old Martin played off the bench, at fullback and five-eighth with Clifford being given his NRL debut in the closing rounds.

Who will captain the Cowboys?

Green has a high opinion of Clifford but suggested Martin had the inside running for round one.

"[Martin] is probably the more experienced out of him and Jake Clifford so I think he has probably got his nose in front a little bit at the moment," Green said.

"He is training really well, Te Maire. It is a big year for him.

"Last time we had JT not playing through injury he did a really good job. For Morgo and him if they can get back to the combo they were forming [in 2017] then that is what we are aiming for.

"[We] have a bit of depth there too with Jake Clifford... so there is healthy competition for spots which is what you want."

Cowboys playmaker Jake Clifford on his NRL debut.
Cowboys playmaker Jake Clifford on his NRL debut. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Martin's form at the end of 2017 was also a reflection of the certainty he had about his role, a scenario Green said he was keen to revisit.

"It was the most consistent he's played for us. He could get his head around where he was playing each week which gave him a bit of consistency from a preparation point of view which definitely helped him," he said.

"That will be the case this [coming] year too."

Green said he was yet to make a decision on who the captain would be for 2019.

Thurston and Matt Scott had been co-captains since 2011 but Green said he was "not a huge fan of co-captaincy" and that he would probably not go down that path again.

While he was keeping his cards very close to his chest it would seem logical that a player such as Morgan, who is on the field for the entirety of a game, would be the front-runner.

"It is a big decision and one we knew was coming. We've been putting plenty of work in to that area," Green said.

"When Johnathan retired that changes the dynamic with a lot of things, not just with playing but with the influence he had off the field as well.

"We've been working through some things in developing that leadership… and who is going to have the 'c' next to their name we will get to down the track.

"It is important that while we are training and trying to build that new feeling amongst the group that everyone has a role to play from that point of view, so at different times they will all have to be a leader."

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