Todd Payten says he'd be disappointed if Cowboys gun Valentine Holmes wasn't pushing for a return to the No.1 jersey as the coach's blunt honesty is reflected by his players.
Holmes told reporters in Townsville on Thursday that "the reason I came here was to play fullback" when he signed a six-year deal worth around $5 million under former coach Paul Green.
The Queensland flyer's bottom lip didn't drop as he said he believes fullback rather than wing is where "I can play my best footy", acknowledging he will line up wherever Payten wishes.
Holmes has once again been named on the wing with Scott Drinkwater at the back for Saturday's Townsville tussle with St George Illawarra.
Payten has previously stressed his fullback's defensive output was a key focus for him, while Holmes's defensive combination with young winger-turned-centre Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow also plays a part in his back five line-up.
Holmes: I came here to play No.1
"I'm not surprised because we've had that conversation a couple of times throughout the pre-season," Payten said.
"[He is] still thinking like a fullback throughout the week. I've said it in a couple of times, he's in all our spine meetings.
"I have no problem with players speaking their mind because they know that I'm going to.
Payten gives an update on Taumalolo
"In terms of that I would be surprised and a little bit upset if he was content sitting out on the wing."
Both player and coach acknowledged the limited opportunities out wide as well, particularly in games such as the round one 24-0 loss to Penrith – when the Cowboys saw only 40% of possession and Holmes only 15 touches of the ball.
"It can be frustrating for him because I know he wants to get his hands on the ball as much as possible," Payten said.
"There's a little bit of game sense in that, when the right time is to come in and do that. But at the moment he's got to get the team rolling forward which he does well and make some smart decisions when defending.
"He's got Hamiso inside him so I guess he's almost a bit of a coach on the run out there at times with Hammer inside him.
"That's what I'm looking to get out of him day-to-day and week-to-week at the moment. He's going OK."
Holmes's comments on his preferred playing position came after Payten's public bake of marquee forward Jason Taumalolo, who has since suffered a broken hand at training.
Cowboys v Dragons - Round 2
Payten's up-front manner – refreshing but also rare in modern rugby league – has proved a talking point since.
The new Cowboys coach has stressed previously that everything uttered in public has already been discussed privately with his players.
As the club awaits a definitive timeframe on Taumalolo's lay-off, Reuben Cotter has been preferred as his replacement at lock ahead of former rep star Josh McGuire.
"Josh just hasn't had enough running under his belt in the past pre-season," Payten said.
"We can protect Josh with his minutes either side of half-time.
"Reubs is super fit, he's a super competitor and he will get the job done for as long as we need him to do it."
Former Warriors forward Lachlan Burr comes onto the bench to make his club debut against the Dragons.
For the visitors Cody Ramsey completed Friday's captains run without any further ankle issues and is expected to take his place on the wing.