TALENT: Cowboys player Jake Clifford in action against Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday night.
TALENT: Cowboys player Jake Clifford in action against Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday night. Patrick Woods

Clifford determined to take opportunities with both hands

RUGBY LEAGUE: Advice from a legend of the game is still ringing in Jake Clifford's ears as he continues to press his claims for a starting role in the halves at Cowboys.

He's currently embroiled in a fight for the No.7 jersey with Te Marie Martin as the season looms and made sure his name was still well in the frame for the role during a sizzling performance in a pre-season trial against Titans at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday.

He was a stand-out on field for North Queensland, bagging three tries and three conversions during the 22-16 victory.

Clifford has already notched up some game time in the top flight, playing six games for the Cowboys alongside Johnathan Thurston last year.

It was this experience and time rubbing shoulders with Thurston that's driving his hunger to earn a starting spot this campaign.

"The first three (NRL games) I felt I was a bit shaky still and little bit behind the eight-ball but I'm getting used to that speed of the game and contact and stuff like that and I feel I've got a lot of confidence out of it,” he said.

The 21-year-old said he'd soaked up plenty of advice from Thurston during his time at the club and had made sure to remember it during pre-season.

"Yeah (Thurston has helped), obviously in those six games it was very beneficial to play alongside him,” Clifford said.

"He's always talked about about taking opportunities and that's one thing I wanted to do this year is take those opportunities when they present themselves.”

Clifford is confident he'd be ready for a starting spot in the halves if given the chance.

"Yeah (I'm ready), I've just got to be consistent every week and do my role for the team and take a opportunities if they present themselves,” he said.

While Martin was rumoured as the favoured partner in the halves with Michael Morgan in previous weeks, Clifford hasn't given up the fight.

"He (coach Paul Green) hasn't labelled anyone, to me anyway. I'll let the training and playing do the talking and then at the end of day he's going to pick a half so we've just got to keep playing some good footy,” he said.

Green said it was still very much a neck-and-neck race for the halves spot.

"Getting the balance right is important,” coach Green said.

"They've both got different attributes and they're both different players.

"Te Maire is very good at sniffing out an opportunity and he often gets himself in the right spot.

"Then Cliffo has probably got a better kicking game so I just have to weigh it up and get that balance right.”

Cowboys star hooker Jake Granville had been impressed by both Martin and Clifford in the trial.

"He (Clifford) was good,” Granville said.

"The young fellas stood up there a couple of times and between him and Te Maire in the halves they got four tries.

"Cliffo got three of them and he's a talent.”