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Cowboys hooker Reuben Cotter.

After missing three full seasons due to two ACL tears in his teens, off-contract Cowboys hooker Reuben Cotter is understandably keen to make the most of just his second starting game in the NRL.

The 21-year-old lines up against the Sharks on Saturday night in Sydney in the number nine jersey for his 11th Telstra Premiership match after making his starting debut against Newcastle last week.

A new deal at the club is his ultimate aim but time is running out to secure one.

Cotter has shown plenty of tenacity to even play at the highest level after a cruel career break that many players have not come back from.

In 2016 he had played just twice for the Cowboys under 20s and ruptured his ACL. On his return in 2017 he suffered the same injury, only his absence was longer.

"I missed three full years all up. The first time I missed a year and the second time I had an eighteen month lay-off and missed a second and third year," Cotter told NRL.com.

"At the time it was tough, but at least with the second one I knew what I was in for.

Sharks v Cowboys - Round 16

"I was young and age was on my side so I had no doubt that I would get back playing footy again. I had a good frame of mind and I had some good physios and doctors that helped me stay on track."

A Sarina Crocs junior who came through the Cowboys' academy system, Cotter arrived at the club he supported as a youth to play under 20s in the midst of the euphoric afterglow of the 2015 premiership win. Now he wants to make the most of the remaining rounds and prove to the Cowboys he deserves a new deal.

"I am not currently signed but I am looking to stay here. My manager is taking care of it all now," he said.

"It is something I wanted to do since I was a kid, and more recently to get the chance to start for the Cowboys is amazing for me.

"This weekend is my second chance to start so it is a big deal for me."

A lock turned dummy-half, Cotter has looked up to former Cowboys lock Dallas Johnson and club legend Aaron Payne, now on the coaching staff, for inspiration.

"I played a bit of lock but when I was younger and I looked up to Dallas Johnson just because of his attitude," Cotter said.

"He was one of those blokes whose effort was always top notch and while he wasn't the biggest bloke it didn't stop him from doing anything in the game. I was fortunate enough to have Dallas in the dressing room for my debut last year so that was a bit of a cool moment.

"I then made the transition to hooker after school because I wasn't as big as some of the other blokes and got selected for a Queensland team as a hooker.

"I like to run the ball so it is good having Aaron Payne here at the club who was one of the club greats at hooker. Aaron was an excellent runner of the ball and he always encourages us to play 'eyes up' and if there is an opportunity to run, to just go."