North Queensland Cowboys coach Paul Green has named young Intrust Super Cup playmaker Kyle Laybutt to make his NRL debut in a reshuffled line-up to take on the Melbourne Storm this week.
The Townsville Blackhawk will make his debut at five-eighth after having a false start last week due to the return of Johnathan Thurston, who, along with Gavin Cooper, Michael Morgan and Coen Hess, will be in camp with the Queensland State of Origin side.
Green has shuffled usual centre Kane Linnett closer to the middle to occupy the second-row role vacated by Cooper, while Javid Bowen has been brought in at centre along with Ray Thompson at halfback and Corey Jensen on the bench.
Green was disappointed that what could have been a marquee match has been cut down by nine players from both sides due to Origin duty, but was happy to play an understrength Storm outfit in Melbourne.
"From a club point of view we're probably lucky that we're playing Melbourne because they are so affected by selections with Origin. We're up against a team that's probably in the same boat," Green said.
Leaders in spotlight
The Cowboys will need their leaders to set the bar against the Storm, and Green is confident they'll be up to the challenge.
"We need those guys to probably step up a little bit more, the more experienced guys that we have there – (Lachlan Coote, Jake Granville), Jason Taumalolo and (Scott Bolton). We need those guys to make sure they're playing close to their best," he said.
‘It's a great reward for the club’
Despite the impact Origin has on his side, Green is looking forward to having his representative stars return to the Cowboys as better players, especially Cooper and Hess.
"I think it's a great reward for the club, it shows we're a club that can develop players and turn them into rep players. It's a great reward for the individuals as well so I'm really pleased for all the guys."