Cotter reveals why new NRL era is his game to dominate
When injury struck down Cowboys starting hooker Reece Robson, young gun Reuben Cotter sought to make the most of his opportunity.
Having taken full advantage, he no longer views himself as a fill in option; he believes he is the man to help guide North Queensland's surge out of the finals football wilderness.
The Sarina product stepped into the number nine jersey for the final six games of North Queensland's 2020 campaign, impressing interim coach Josh Hannay with his tenacity and relentless defensive intent.
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Averaging almost 50 running metres and 43 tackles a game in that time, the 22-year-old's figures proved his abilities in the modern era of rugby league, with a faster ruck to test the fitness levels of players each week.
However Robson has since recovered from the hamstring injury which derailed the end of his season, and with that the competition for the spot has risen yet again.
Along with premiership winning rake Jake Granville, the Cowboys are well stocked for options in the middle of the field.
Grinning as he showed off a trademark bruise above his right eye, inflicted upon him in a typically aggressive Todd Payten training session, Cotter said this competition would only take him to the heights he needed to reach in order to regularly succeed in the NRL.
But the confidence he has gained from his run-on stint has ensured he no longer sees himself as someone to cover absences, it is now his jumper to lose.
"That happened last Saturday," Cotter said of his nasty cut, "we've been training pretty physically.
"You've got to enjoy it playing in the middle, you can't run away from it, and the way the game is now - it's getting a lot faster and a lot more physical - I love it.
"There's been a lot of competition in the nine role - (Granville) and Robbo are training really well, and that helps my case.
"I'd love to be the starting nine, I think we're all competing really well for the spot and it makes everyone train harder with that healthy competition.
"Whatever the case is come round one, I'm sure we'll all be working hard for it."
Cotter will get his first taste of football in 2021 when he turns out for his debut with the Indigenous All Stars at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
He will be the only Cowboys player to take the field for the February 20 clash, with speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow missing selection and Esan Marsters not chosen for the Maori opposition.
There will be added incentive when Cotter takes the field, knowing he is representing his family and has the chance to show Payten how far he has come since last campaign.
Knowing he will get to do so in a side which features the likes of Latrell Mitchell, Jack Wighton and Josh Addo-Carr simply makes the occasion all the more tantalising.
"I'm stoked, my family was pretty happy when I told them - mum's Torres Strait so she was stoked and I'm keen to represent them in a couple of weeks," Cotter said.
"It will be unreal, especially being in Townsville, I know we've got a big indigenous base up here.
"There's a great calibre of players there, our back five are some of the best in the NRL and our forward pack as well.
"I'm excited for the week just to see how we go together, how we bond and for the game as well."
Originally published as Cotter reveals why new NRL era is his game to dominate