It's been three seasons since they last took the field together, but North Queensland star Valentine Holmes says the signing of former teammate Chad Townsend brings a fresh look to a side looking to turn the corner.
Holmes was ecstatic when word of Townsend's decision to leave Cronulla and sign a three-year deal with the Cowboys came out last April.
He was one of the first to reach out to his good friend on what he could bring to their young side.
"That gave me a lot of confidence when they made the decision to sign him," Holmes told reporters on Thursday.
"He was pretty keen on getting up here, probably for a change of scenery as he'd obviously been at the Sharks for a while, as was myself and...I'm excited to have him."
Townsend's premiership-winning experience should see the 31-year-old slot right into the halves with Scott Drinkwater for 2022, while also taking on the role of mentoring young halfback Tom Dearden.
There's also likely to be a shift for Holmes in the backline, the fullback/winger training at left centre in the preseason and adopting a role made famous by NSW flyer Tom Trbrjoevic last year, with coach Todd Payten giving him the green light to ascertain open space and strike.
"He (Payten) has given me the key to roam around the field when needed," Holmes said.
"Obviously when the ball goes away from my edge, just kind of sniff around."
But it's the pairing of Townsend and Holmes that the club hopes can fire them back into finals conversation after finishing in the bottom four every year since 2018.
Defensive issues have plagued the young Cowboys outfit as the club succumbed to the worst points allowed in 2021 at 748, or 31 points per game.
As the club has dealt with COVID-19 issues and players coming in and out of preseason training, Holmes says the coaching focus has solely been on their work without the ball.
"It's been a defensive focus preseason: a lot of combat session wrestling, edge defence, team defence," he said.
"We've obviously got new combinations with myself, Drinky (Drinkwater) and Chad, and our new halves combinations, so I'm trying to get all that down right by the time we get to the season."
Australian Associated Press