Coming off an injury-ravaged 2020 season, North Queensland five-eighth Michael Morgan is ready and raring for a return to NRL action.
The Cowboys co-skipper - who will this season share the captaincy with Jason Taumalolo - is key as a leader and ball player for North Queensland, but only managed six games in the last campaign as his side struggled to compete.
A combination of shoulder surgery followed by a torn calf wrote off most of Morgan's 2020 campaign but with a return to fitness and the arrival of a fresh coaching team for the Cowboys, this year brings a clean slate.
Morgan says the differences in new coach Todd Payten's approach have been embraced by the players.
"It was very different to what we've had in the past," Morgan said.
"Obviously Todd is bringing a lot of new things in and changing the way we want to play ... so training's changed.
"It did take a little bit of getting used to the things that he put in place, what he wants us to do and what he wants us to be good at.
"We had things a certain way for a long time so it wasn't going to change overnight.
"We'll still probably have some teething problems now and then but everyone's going really well."
One of Morgan's concerns was how ready his body would be for the challenges ahead, coming off almost a year without competitive football.
But getting through last week's trial against Brisbane without any issues has given the 29-year-old added belief he is ready for a return to the fray.
"Getting through a tough pre-season brought back that confidence in my body," he said.
"I was a little bit nervous going into last weekend but that was probably just from not playing for a little while.
"With pre-season, a lot of high-speed running, a lot of contact has been great."
One change at the club for the season ahead is the sharing of leadership responsibility, with Morgan welcoming the naming of dual-international Taumalolo as co-captain for 2021.
"I've really enjoyed Jason being made captain and I'm extremely glad that he is. He is very deserving of it," Morgan said.
"It gives me more of a chance to just focus on myself, which is what I've had to do through the pre-season."
The Cowboys kick-off their 2021 NRL campaign with a visit to last season's beaten grand finalists Penrith on March 13.
Australian Associated Press