LUCKLESS Lachlan Coote has returned to pre-season training with a determination that suggests surprise-packet Michael Morgan will have to fight hard to wear the Cowboys' No.1 jumper again next season.
North Queensland coach Paul Green admitted he was keeping an open mind after Morgan cashed in on Coote's serious knee injury in February, enjoying a breakout NRL season which thrust him into State of Origin discussions.
"We'll see how the pre-season plays out," Green told APN when asked which of the two was most likely to play fullback in 2015.
"It will come down to form and the best balance for the team, but I would think they'd both be in the squad.
"Morgo had a great season, but he's still learning, while Coote has a lot more experience in the position."
Coote ruptured the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the first day of this year's inaugural Auckland Nines, which the Cowboys won.
He spent the season watching Morgan shine in his position at fullback knowing he would have a tough job reclaiming it next season.
"He's going really good," Green said.
"He had the quickest time for our 1.2km run last Wednesday."
Morgan didn't contest the session, enjoying an extra week off after playing in the Prime Minister's game in PNG.
Green said he believed having Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and James Tamou all completing a pre-season would be very beneficial and help eliminate a repeat of last year's slow start to the season.
"Having those guys doing a pre-season, that's a terrific result," he said.
"We need a better start than we had last year, but we were the most consistent team for the last 10 rounds losing only two games, both by a point, to Penrith and the Roosters in the final.''
Brisbane cast-off Ben Hannant, who will give Green arguably the best front-row rotation in the competition, has already impressed his new coach.
"He turned up for our first pre-season session in pretty good shape," Green said.
"He'll be a great replacement for Ashton Sims.
"He wants to play rep football again so he's obviously backed himself by only signing a one-year deal."
Green said the Cowboys' strong playing roster, headed by Thurston, meant the expectations on the club to win the premiership would again be high.
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