North Queensland hooker Jake Granville has the perfect opportunity to stake his claim for a State of Origin jumper over the next two weeks, according to club coach Paul Green.
The Maroons' No.9 jumper is up for the grabs for the first time in almost 13 years after long-time captain Cameron Smith announced his decision to retire from representative football this week.
And the stage is set for Granville to make a compelling case for selection, with the Cowboys facing South Sydney and Melbourne before teams are chosen for game one.
Rabbitohs rake Damien Cook is widely considered in the running for the Blues' role, while Smith has played in all but one of the Maroons' games since his Origin debut in 2006.
"There's two games to go until they pick the team so if he does have that ambition in mind, he's got two games to really stick his hand up," Green told reporters on Friday.
"Regardless of who we're playing, it is a personal battle there to try and get on top of your opposite number but also again he's got another challenge next week against Cameron Smith.
"If he wants to put his hand up for it, it's a great opportunity for him."
Green threatened to wield the axe on his line-up after watching his men slump to their seventh loss in their opening ten matches against the Wests Tigers last week that has left them in 15th spot.
And while the premiership-winning coach has again opted to give his side another chance, there are doubts over Shaun Fensom (elbow), Jason Taumalolo (ankle) and Ben Hampton (ankle).
Fensom is under the most doubt, with rookie forward Enari Tuala in line for a possible debut as Green considers inserting an injection of youth in his team.
"At some point you've got to look at that because that's probably what we need," he said.
"Last week was a tough week for us for different reasons but bring in a bit of youthful experience, sometimes brings that enthusiasm that you're looking for so it's definitely an option."
Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold named an unchanged side from the one who upset ladder leaders St George Illawarra last week and are gunning for a fifth win in six matches.
They are one of five teams in the middle of the table on 12 points, including Melbourne, the Sydney Roosters, Wests Tigers and Cronulla.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Cowboys have won their past four and eight of their past nine against the Rabbitohs.
* The Cowboys have lost six of their past eight in Townsville, with all six coming by double-digit margins - their worst eight-game period in seven years.
* Greg Inglis has scored six tries in his past seven matches.