Following the departure of Sam Williams and the likelihood of Josh McCrone permanently shifting to the hooking role, halfback is perhaps the most contentious position in the Raiders line-up.
Cornish has progressed through to the fulltime NRL squad after a stellar junior representative career in which he represented the Raiders, NSW and Australia with distinction.
The 21 year olds fantastic ball playing ability, finely tuned kicking game and leadership also saw him named in the Holden Cup Team of the Year for two consecutive years.
For the aforementioned reasons, many have tipped a bright future for the Goulburn junior. For Cornish personally, he will be looking to not only breakthrough for his first grade debut in 2014, but press his claims to be Canberra’s long term number seven.
Cornish was in line to make his long awaited NRL debut in Round 26 last year however he was denied this opportunity due to second tier salary cap restrictions.
After undergoing his second year of pre-season training with the NRL squad, Cornish’s game is set to develop enormously under the close tutelage of Ricky Stuart, one of the game’s finest ever halfbacks.
Cornish will be given a chance to impress Stuart in the upcoming trials against the Melbourne Storm and the Newcastle Knights and if he is able to deliver, then he may well be wearing the number seven jersey for the Green Machine in Round 1 against the North Queensland Cowboys.
Whilst McCrone is heavily tipped to be playing hooker in 2014, the option to retain the talented playmaker at halfback is still a genuine possibility for the Raiders.
McCrone has proven himself as a class halfback for the Green Machine over recent years however it is the threat that he poses from dummy half that is likely to see him in the number nine jersey for the upcoming season.
The 26 year olds speed, playmaking ability, vision and kicking game adds a different dimension to the Raiders attack out of dummy half and he has been thoroughly impressive in the role during pre-season training.
There are three elements that will determine if McCrone is retained in that position:
1) The form of McCrone at hooker.
This is imperative as McCrone is still relatively unproven as a fulltime hooker however given his unrelenting competitive nature, obvious footballing ability and the form he showed playing in that position for Country Origin last year, Raiders fans should have high hopes for McCrone.
2) How well Cornish adapts to the increased standard of the NRL.
Astute judges have tipped the talented Cornish to be an NRL halfback of the highest standard however whether he is ready for that level in 2014 remains to be seen.
3) The form of Buttriss, McIlwrick and Baptiste.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the Raiders also have plenty of other options at hooker which may tempt Stuart to keep McCrone at halfback.
As mentioned previously in the five-eighth contenders, another option for Stuart is to select last year’s Meninga Medallist, Anthony Milford in the halves.
Although Milford is aiming to play fullback in 2014, the 19 year old grew up playing in the halves and was impressive when partnering either Campese or McCrone last year.
Milford’s individual brilliance would be complimented well by the steadying influence of a Campese or McCrone alongside him but the player that most makes him a candidate for a spot in the halves this year is Reece Robinson.
Robinson has proven his brilliance at fullback in previous years gone by and if Stuart is to make the most of both players’ attacking brilliance then Milford may find his way into the halves in 2014.
If Campese is unavailable, Stuart may also be tempted to reunite Milford with his NYC halves partner Mitch Cornish, a combination that was extremely successful in the Under 20s.