Impressive performances by a handful of Canberra Raiders youngsters may force Ricky Stuart to rethink his 17-man squad for round one of the Telstra Premiership.
Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and Bailey Simonsson were among those who thrust their name into the selection picture as the Raiders staged a late revival to beat Parramatta 22-20 in a trial which featured a mix of NRL and Intrust Super Premiership players.
"That was our whole focus [last weekend] and we were fortunate to play against a number of NRL players from Parramatta," Stuart said.
"A number of our younger players got to see where they're at, got to see what it's like playing against a fully-fledged NRL player.
"The intensity, the speed, the collisions are always greater and I was more than impressed with a number of younger players.
"I've changed a couple of our selections for our squad going away to the Bega trial purely on that performance."
Off-season signing Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad impressed in the win at both fullback and on the wing, but Stuart stopped short of penciling the former New Zealand Warriors player in for the round one clash with the Titans.
The veteran coach also expressed optimism regarding a handful of other unproven youngsters.
"Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad performed very well on the weekend, Bailey Simonsson also did well at fullback," he said.
"Bailey is a raw young boy who hasn't had a lot of experience in rugby league but I thought he trialed very well.
"Another guy who trialed very well was Tony Satini and I've got Michael Oldfield who's injured at the moment, so all of a sudden the performances show we've got a bit of depth."
Oldfield has been battling a groin injury the last four weeks and is one of several first-grade options not available to play Canterbury in the club's second trial at Bega on Saturday.
Jordan Rapana continues to recover from his shoulder injury, while Joey Leilua and John Bateman have also been ruled out of Saturday's match.
Seemingly the worst kept secret for Canberra's likely team for round one is Jack Wighton moving to five-eighth.
Saturday's trial will be the first chance for ex-fullback Jack Wighton to press for a spot alongside Aidan Sezer in the halves for the opening week of the season proper.
"That'll come down to performance this weekend, they have to play well against Canterbury," Stuart said of Wighton and Sezer chances.
"There's a couple of other players who can play those positions as well, but you're hoping all of the players can come out and trial well."
Despite being forced to come from behind to earn the win over the Eels, Stuart said the ghosts of close losses in 2018 were not starting to rear their heads.
Raiders team to face Bulldogs
Saturday, February 23, 5.00pm, Bega Recreational Ground
Jarrod Croker (c)
Josh Hodgson (c)