Their breakout seasons helped bank North Queensland a maiden NRL title, but Michael Morgan and Jake Granville have been challenged by coach Paul Green to deliver even more in 2016.
And he’s demanding the likes of key forwards Jason Taumalolo and Ethan Lowe follow their lead.
In a lineup littered with representative stars, it was halfback Morgan and hooker Granville who repeatedly came up with the biggest plays throughout the finals series – including Morgan’s sublime pass to Kyle Feldt to score a last-minute try to send the grand final into extra time.
Higher honours have been mooted for both players, with Morgan making his Queensland debut last year and revealing last month his desire to earn an Australian jersey as well.
But Green says they can improve – but must both redouble their efforts or risk being left behind.
“Oh yeah definitely. They have to (improve). The comp is too hard and if you don’t improve as a team, teams go past you,” Green told AAP.
“To improve as a team we need our players to improve. For those two in particular that has to be the case.
“Jason Taumalolo is another one, Ethan Lowe as well. There’s a few of those guys there that need to take that next step.”
Playing alongside four-time Dally M medal winner Johnathan Thurston helped bring out the best in Morgan last season, with opposition defences understandably devoting much of their focus to the game’s premier player.
But that played into the Cowboys hands, co-captain Matt Scott argued, with Morgan given space and freedom to wreak havoc.
And he believes the defending premiers will be an even more dangerous proposition in 2016 they find a way to play through Morgan even more.
“Morgs is another one similar to Jake, who will only get better and better,” Scott told AAP.
“Physically he’s a bit of a specimen and he’s found his position there in the halves, and he knows his role a lot better now.
“For him it’s just about learning a bit more about the game and I think last year was great for his confidence.
“Already at training he’s commanding the ball a bit more often.
“If you’ve got JT on one side then teams usually try and load up the defensive numbers on him, so if Morgs can command the ball a bit more often you’ll see him get better and better as well.”