Star showing thrusts Cotter into the frame for Cowboys
REUBEN Cotter's first Queensland derby overflowed with success. It was indicative of a man who had tasted the NRL and was hungry for more.
In torrential Cairns conditions, the young hooker scored two tries and set up another in the Cowboys 18-16 defeat of the Brisbane Broncos.
The effort keeps him firmly in the selection frame for when the two sides meet again in round one.
But while Cotter said the performance had injected some confidence and momentum into the back end of his pre-season, there was still a lot of work to put in between now and the start of the NRL campaign.
"Even though it was a trial match it was definitely a step in the way I want to be playing," he said.
"It was a tough one, but if every Broncs-Cowboys game is going to be back and forward like that … if I'm ever in contention for a game like that I'd be keen to get in.
"If I'm in that side I'll be happy to rip in with the boys … if not, my focus will be on QCup and trying to put myself in contention throughout the season."
Cotter, 21, earned five Cowboys jerseys last season - only an obstruction penalty denying him a try within seconds of taking the field on debut.
Each game he played he was rewarded with more game time, finishing the year by featuring in three consecutive matches from rounds 22 to 24.
It has fuelled the desire to be a regular presence in the side, but it will be no easy feat.
The Sarina product has been in a three way tussle with Jake Granville and Reece Robson for the No. 9 jumper.
Depth in the position is not an issue, with Granville a 2015 premiership winner and Robson one of the most highly touted youngsters in the NRL.
But Cotter has used the competition to transform his game.
Cotter said in a lot of ways the dummy-half trio were similar, but they still brought different strengths and points of difference to the position.
He said the knowledge shared between them had made each a better player, without losing the competitive edge to secure a spot in the starting 17.
"With the likes of game management and when to take different splits in the game, it's that sort of game I'm still developing," Cotter said.
"When I can talk to them about it, it makes it a lot easier for me to understand and make my game better.
"I think having the pre-season under my belt has also benefited me and I've learnt in my role a little bit more.
"I'm just keen to get out there and practice and put it all into place."
Cowboys play the Storm in a second trial on Saturday at Melbourne's Casey Fields. Fans can stream the clash online at NRL.com at 4.30pm.