AAP Rugby

Clifford’s chance to claim Cowboys No.6

By AAP Newswire

Jake Clifford will get another chance to press his claims for the North Queensland No.6 with halves rival Scott Drinkwater sidelined for the pre-season trial against Melbourne on Saturday.

A star of the Cowboys' victorious NRL Nines campaign, Drinkwater (pectoral strain) won't play against his former club at Casey Fields, with Clifford to be reunited with captain Michael Morgan as he attempts to nail down the spot.

Also a fullback, Drinkwater has proved his versatility by slotting into the playmaker role since the arrival of Valentine Holmes, who will wear the No.1 against the Storm after a successful return to rugby league last weekend against Brisbane.

Morgan, rested from this year's Nines and last weekend's trial, endured injuries and a double dose of concussions last season.

But the captain benefited from a full preseason in a boost for a side that has struggled to nail down their playmaking combination since Johnathan Thurston's 2018 retirement.

"It's the first time in four or five years I've had a full, healthy preseason and it's put me in a good position to go into year well and build combinations with different guys," Morgan told AAP.

"Getting Val was a spanner in the works for Drinky but we know he is happy to play in the halves and Cliffo is doing well in preseason too.

"We know things change and we've all trained there, so no matter who starts (in round one), both will play a big role this year and it's a blessing to have both options there this season."

Hooker Jake Granville will also start ahead of St George Illawarra recruit Reece Robson in what shapes as the other big selection call for coach Paul Green.

Experienced forwards John Asiata and Gavin Cooper have also been named for their first hit-outs while Wests Tigers recruit Esan Marsters will add pace and power in the centres.

Elsewhere, Moses Mbye will look to make a home in the centres for the Tigers in their trial against the Warriors on Sunday.

Joey Leilua will also play his first game for the club at right centre, while Billy Walters will get the first crack at hooker with Josh Reynolds on the bench.

Meanwhile Tyrone Roberts will play in the Gold Coast's trial against Brisbane after recovering from an ankle injury in the NRL All Stars match.

Maika Sivo will also play for Parramatta against Penrith, with the NRL yet to confirm if he will avoid being stood down with a criminal charge he has denied hanging over his head in Fiji.