Veteran Canberra prop Jeff Lima has spoken of his pride in several young Raiders forwards who have held the club's engine room together while he and fellow stars have been missing.
Lima made his long-awaited return from a broken hand in the Raiders' 36-12 win over the Warriors last weekend but was forced to replace Shaun Fensom (shoulder) as a result.
Fensom and Sia Soliola's (arm) return for Sunday's clash against the Bulldogs will see the Raiders name their strongest 17 in months – with only Josh Papalii to return from Origin duty.
The former New Zealand international was particularly impressed by the likes of Clay Priest, Joseph Tapine and Luke Bateman.
"It'll eventually be a selection headache for the coach but that's the good thing about us – our depth. There will be good competition for spots when Josh Papalii is available and the two senior boys are playing again," Lima told NRL.com.
"The likes of Clay Priest and Luke Bateman are very good players and have done a massive job for us so far this year. They have done everything Sticky (coach Ricky Stuart) has asked of them and they're only going to get better.
"The more game time they get, the better they'll get. There's confidence in that while they're still so young, they're holding their own which is a good sign for us."
The off-contract Lima said the enthusiasm of his younger teammates is holding him in good stead in his quest for at least another season at the Raiders.
In the same vein, the chance to mentor the club's forwards is something Lima isn't prepared to give up at season's end.
"Sia and I are the two oldest at the club so with our wealth of experience we can help them along, and in the future they can do the same for the next crop of young guys who are going to come through," Lima said.
"In a few years, this team is going to be up there with the best. Something special is building here and I want to be a part of it."
The Raiders' last start 26-point win over the Warriors was the first of its kind since 2013 and according to Lima a game where they earned more than just two competition points.
"It was a big ask for us to go over to New Zealand with the Raiders not winning their past five games against them. But we all had a good week. We trained well and hung around together every day which certainly counted when we played," Lima said.
"When the going got tough, our comradery and mateship definitely came into account.
"I think the last couple of weeks everyone has started to realise what's needed in their roles. The boys have taken that on board and realise they're accountable for their actions."
Keep an eye out at GIO Stadium this weekend for the Ricky Stuart Foundation sponsored Canberra jerseys. The Raiders' major sponsor Huawei has donated the front of jersey sponsorship property to raise money and promote the Foundation's #AutismWellbeing message.
This article first appeared on NRL.com