Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow can stake his claim to being North Queensland's long-term fullback after impressing in his return from injury against the Eels on Saturday night.
While Valentine Holmes has assumed the role for the majority of the season, he shifted to the wing in a 32-16 loss to Parramatta to accommodate Tabuai-Fidow's comeback from appendicitis.
Holmes is a proven performer in both positions, though some pundits feel he is better suited on the flank where the 26-year-old has previously excelled for Queensland and Australia.
Tabuai-Fidow, meanwhile, has improved rapidly as a centre this year - debuting there for the Maroons in State of Origin III - but has made the most of his opportunities in the custodian's position.
And with only two rounds to go, Payten said he is keen to watch more of the prodigiously talented 19-year-old in the No.1 jersey.
Hamiso with the magic act to get out of his in-goal
"We're going to see how Hammer goes in the next couple of weeks, [then] we've got a pre-season to fight it out," Payten said.
"We'll just let them see what they've got for us."
Warriors halfback Chad Townsend was recruited to play alongside Tom Dearden in 2022, but five-eighth Scott Drinkwater has been one of North Queensland's more dangerous performers.
Drinkwater started his career as a fullback, having learned off Billy Slater at the Storm, and could also challenge for the position.
Silky hands from the Cowboys
"At the moment, we haven’t got many fit bodies, but pre-season, round one next year, it's about accountability and you earn your spot and you keep it," Payten said of the competition.
Tabuai-Fidow tallied 105 metres in a busy effort in which he had a try overturned by the Bunker for a knock-on as well as spilling a bomb that led to Parramatta's final four-pointer late in the match.
"Apart from that last error for the try, I thought he was really good. I thought he sniffed around the ball, he was working really hard for the guys around him there," Payten said.
"And he defended and organised our line pretty well over the course of the 80 minutes. He was short of a gallop and you could tell that ... that was a fatigue error at the very end."
It was another case of the Cowboys putting up reasonable resistance but being unable to convert chances into points until too late as they slumped to their 10th consecutive loss.
"When we get the detail part of our game plan [right], we look good. And then at times when we don't, we don't look so good," Payten said.
Some sort of run from Luki!
"But Parramatta, about halfway through that second half they went up a gear and we just couldn't go with them. That was the difference.
"It's been a tough slog. [The players] have turned up through the week, working hard to improve and I think the coaches have been doing a great job. Morale's good.
"We've got two weeks left; we need to get a win, we need our younger guys who are inexperienced to keep improving."
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