TOOWOOMBA, Qld - North Queensland's perfect pre-season is complete with the Cowboys beating Gold Coast 28-12 on Saturday night in front of a packed house in Toowoomba.
The Auckland Nines champions welcomed back World Cup stars Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Brent Tate, but all the focus was on who would win the coveted fullback jersey left vacant by Matt Bowen (Wigan).
With Lachlan Coote cut down with an ACL injury from the Nines tournament, the Cowboys packed four fullbacks into their trial squad.
But Zac Santo, Javid Bowen and Matthew Wright struggled to find minutes with Michael Morgan impressing so much that he didn't leave the field until the 59th minute before returning to score the match-winning try.
Morgan's first involvement was outstanding, tested with a high ball and promptly smashed into the turf when he gathered it in, he sprung from the turf and put a fend on Brad Tighe to dash 40m upfield.
He was then involved in a slick left-side play, with winger Antonio Winterstein coming close to opening the scoring, before a dusty Thurston cross-field kick was batted back by fellow Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt for Tariq Sims to score.
Santo also pressed his claims, solid under the high ball and throwing a superb long pass to put Winterstein over in the corner in the 67th minute.
Queensland and Australian prop Scott also impressed, playing big minutes in his first match of the year while Thurston ultimately warmed up with a hand in three tries and four conversions.
Paul Carter was busy at hooker for Gold Coast, the son of former Penrith great Steve putting a case forward for round-one inclusion. First-choice Titans rake Matt Srama (shoulder) and Beau Falloon (hamstring) sat out the trial.