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South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds.

North Queensland are the first side to express formal interest in off-contract Rabbitohs captain Adam Reynolds amid uncertainty over their halves and Michael Morgan's long-term future.

NRL.com understands that Cowboys recruitment staff will travel to Sydney on Wednesday to meet with several managers of off-contract players, including Reynolds' agent Steve Gillis.

Reynolds sits chief among the top free agents given his public stand-off with South Sydney over his desire for a two or three-year deal.

The Rabbitohs have so far refused to budged on their original one-year offer for the 30-year-old.

It's understood Reynolds has entered North Queensland's recruitment thinking given Morgan's latest shoulder issue has prompted suggestions of an early medical retirement for the Test and Queensland Origin regular.

Reynolds gets to his own kick first

The Cowboys have been actively scouring the playmaker market before Morgan's most recent injury, meeting with highly rated Broncos teen Tom Dearden with Scott Drinkwater also off-contract and Jake Clifford moving to Newcastle next season.

Reynolds reiterated after last week's win over the Roosters that his next deal "has got to be a bit longer than one year for me", when asked about coming to terms with leaving Redfern if need be.

Morgan meanwhile has another two years remaining on his lucrative Cowboys contract after a shoulder infection and multiple operations last season first put his career in jeopardy.

Good work in field from Drinkwater means space for Taulagi

Speaking on Tuesday, Cowboys coach Todd Payten said whether Morgan qualifies for a medical retirement had not been discussed with the NRL.

The 29-year-old was ruled out of last week's heavy loss to the Titans – which prompted several changes including Clifford being dropped – and was not available for Saturday's clash with Cronulla.

"We knew that's where his shoulder was at ... I've spoken to him almost daily. He seems in a good space mentally.

"He's well aware of where his shoulder's really at. He just needs to keep working on his rehab and again we'll look at things post-game."

Asked if Morgan was a genuine chance to return for the round five clash with the Wests Tigers, Payten responded: "Yes".

The premiership-winning playmaker, who is contracted until the end of 2023, has played only eight games since the start of last season because of his chronic shoulder injury and a calf issue.

Payten isn't "too worried" about medical retirement at this stage with his main concern being "getting [Morgan] right".

Even with Morgan out, Clifford has been dropped in favour of Ben Hampton, who will partner Drinkwater in the halves.

Hammer time in Townsville

"It's more around [needing] a bit of direction," Payten said in explaining the decision to demote Clifford.

"Benny Hampton is a bit more experienced, has been around the game a long time, he's one of our best talkers."

Ex-Kiwis centre Esan Marsters was the other player to lose his spot on form. Connolly Lemuelu has replaced him.

Injured second-rower Mitch Dunn (plantar fascia) and lock Reuben Cotter (head knock) will also watch from the sideline.

"Some of [Marsters'] defensive reads and efforts weren't up to scratch, so he's aware of that," Payten said.

"He's disappointed. He needs to go back [to the Intrust Super Cup] and be better in that area and cut out the errors as well."