NRL Rd 26 - Dolphins v Cowboys
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 25: Zac Laybutt of the Cowboys breaks away from the defence of Euan Aitken of the Dolphins during the round 26 NRL match between Dolphins and North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on August 25, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Papua New Guinea international representative Zac Laybutt has re-signed with the North Queensland Cowboys.

Making a surprise NRL debut in 2023, Laybutt, just 21, was called into Todd Payten's side from outside the club's Top 30 in Round 13 and went on to play four games during his maiden NRL season.

A graduate of the Cowboys' Young Guns program in 2021, Laybutt was on a train and trial deal in 2023, but has now been promoted to the Top 30 for 2024, and had his contract extended into 2025.

A hard-running outside back who made his debut for the Kumuls during the 2023 Pacific Bowl tournament that was held against Fiji and the Cook Islands in Port Moresby, Laybutt can play at either centre or wing, as well as five-eighth and fullback, and could be in contention for regular first-grade minutes during 2024 as the Cowboys search for answers on the back of a disastrous 2023 campaign.

Peta Hiku's departure, as well as Kyle Feldt moving into the back-end of his career, could open up positions in North Queensland's backline, and the club's general manager of football Michael Luck said how he handled the step up during 2023 wasimpressive.

“Zac is a tremendously talented young player, but what he was able to achieve last year exceeded the already high expectations we had for him,” Luck said in a club statement confirming the news.

“What was most impressive was how he handled the step up through the grades from under 21s to Queensland Cup to the NRL and he looked comfortable with every progression.

“Zac is a very coachable young player who came into first grade as a centre, but he also has the ability to play five-eighth or fullback.

“We're thrilled to have secured Zac for another year, he makes our club a better place and we look forward to seeing him progress.”