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Cowboys five-eighth Daejarn Asi.

Cowboys prodigy Daejarn Asi was slugging it out in the Townsville heat in January when senior players Gavin Cooper and Jordan McLean met him and immediately gave him a new nickname.

"They started calling me mustard because my name sounds like dijon mustard and now it's stuck," Asi says.

The latest Cowboys debutant isn't exactly sure where his first name originated from, convinced his parents made it up.

In between developing a knack for sleeping between training sessions over the pre-season, the laid-back Asi showed enough to Cooper, McLean and the Cowboys' coaching staff he had the potential to kick on.

Asi's name may not be all too familiar in NRL circles yet but his journey towards the top is one that may ring a bell.

After moving from the New Zealand city of Christchurch to the Gold Coast in 2010, Asi was signed on a junior contract by the Cowboys at 15 before moving to North Queensland when he turned 18 last year.

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The former Keebra Park High School student played alongside David Fifita and Tanah Boyd at the fames rugby league school before moving to Brisbane Grammar.

There he joined the likes of Cowboys teammates Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tom Gilbert.

He was tempted by the lures of rugby union and touch football but did enough over the summer to convince Cowboys officials he was worthy of a new deal. 

"I was playing in the Cyril Connell Cup and [Cowboys recruitment manager] Clint [Zammit] gave my mum a call and told her about the offer," Asi said.

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"A week later I signed. It was really hard to leave my family behind but the Cowboys have been good to me so I thought I'd return the favour.

"The first week of pre-season was tough. Between sessions, I would go have a sleep in the break room. But I'm enjoying living in Townsville and am here for another two years."

Paul Green's parting gift to Asi – an NRL debut against Penrith last week – may have come quicker than expected but now presents a stepping stone the 19-year-old to build on.

"I was grateful to get that game under Greeny," he said.

"He's done a lot for me. I was shocked when he told me I was playing, I didn't know what to say. It was a very special moment for me and my family.

"I'm just happy to play my game and now look to try to get a spot week-in-week-out."

While a halves position isn't preferred, Asi made his first performance at the top level felt with a try and overall solid performance.

With the ability to play in the centres and at fullback, the Cowboys' next NRL coach has a rising player who is versatile to work with.

"I don't have a preference, I'll play anywhere," Asi said.