Valentine Holmes looked like he never left the NRL in his first appearance for North Queensland, as they won a tight trial game against Brisbane in torrential rain.
Holmes starred for Cronulla, Queensland and Australia before taking last season off for an ultimately unsuccessful crack at the NFL, but returned to rugby league with aplomb in Cairns on Saturday night.
Valentine Holmes returned for the Cowboys.
The 24-year-old played the first half and was rock solid at fullback against the Broncos in his first steps towards replicating his last NRL season, where he scores 22 tries in 26 games in 2018.
Cowboys reserve hooker Reuben Cotter scored a double, including the winner with five minutes remaining, as the hosts prevailed 18-16.
Jack Clifford looks likely to partner Cowboys skipper Michael Morgan in the halves for round one next month after a polished performance at halfback.
But five-eighth Scott Drinkwater also impressed and will push Clifford all season for the playmaking duties, while Jason Taumalolo was his usual destructive self in limited minutes.
Brisbane was led by a barnstorming Payne Haas, while centre Jesse Arthars scored two tries and Anthony Milford had an encouraging outing.
Jack Bird got the first crack in the Broncos No.1 jersey and was strong but is still fighting for the starting role with Jamayne Isaako, who featured off the bench.
Brodie Croft started at halfback for Brisbane in his first game since leaving the Melbourne Storm last season.
The teams, which both appeared to survive the match without injuries, will meet again in round one on March 13.
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