Gone are the days of North Queensland being a one man team.
And rugby league great Darren Lockyer reckons the man the Cowboys are trying to offload – Lachlan Coote – is a big reason why.
Speculation is building Coote may be bound for either St George Illawarra or Manly due to salary cap pressures despite pleas from the likes of teammate Michael Morgan for the Cowboys to find a way to keep the fullback.
Reigning NRL premiers North Queensland last month told Coote he was free to explore his options for next year, with a one-season extension expected to be the best offer they can muster for the in-form No.1.
Lockyer admitted the scramble to retain players was an unfortunate by-product of winning the NRL title but admitted Coote would be a big loss for North Queensland.
Lockyer said plenty of credit had been given five-eighth Morgan for taking the pressure off Johnathan Thurston, ensuring North Queensland were no longer a “one man team”.
However Lockyer said Coote had also played a big part in their 2015 premiership success.
“No disrespect to the rest of the team but it was like that – Thurston was the go to man,” he said.
“He still is but Morgan adds another threat on the other side of the field.
“And Lachlan Coote plays a part in that as well.
“He’s got a good kicking game with the left foot.
“He doesn’t make errors at fullback.
“He makes them a dangerous prospect.”
The emergence of teenage custodian Kalyn Ponga is believed to have sparked the Cowboys’ decision to put Coote up for sale.
But Lockyer warned: “If the word on the street is that he might have to go they obviously think there is someone coming through who can replace him.
“But will he be the same as Lachlan?”
Coote, 25, is believed to be hoping for a three year deal to secure his NRL future.
At the Dragons, Coote would be retained at fullback but Manly are floating the idea of slotting him into the halves with No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans.
Morgan hoped the Cowboys found a way to keep good mate Coote.
“He is a huge part of our team,” he told Fox Sports TV.
“He’s getting better and better.
“I really hope that they can find some room for him, fingers crossed.”
Coote will again be the key when North Queensland take on Brisbane in their NRL grand final re-match at a packed Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.