Finals experience is a rare commodity for some players in Canberra, but Nick Cotric is hoping his first stint as a State of Origin player earlier this season has prepared him mentally for the play-off pressure cooker.
Through injuries, suspension and missing time at club level while in Blues camp, Cotric admitted 2019 has arguably been the toughest of his career.
Despite averaging less than 100 metres a game for the first time in his career and having only score three tries through 17 games, the 20-year-old remains a genuine match-winner. He gets a chance at right centre against Cronulla on Sunday following the two-game suspension of Joey Leilua.
Cotric said playing in front of 20,265 last weekend against Manly and a sell-out at PointsBet Stadium this weekend will continue the side's mental preparation for finals.
"A big crowd like that, it's a high-pressure game and it's going to be a big learning curve for me and a few of the boys who haven't played finals yet, it just gives us a taste of what's to come," Cotric said.
"it just the little things you've got to get right, it's a high-pressure area and coming into semis it' going to be the same.
Cotric said shifting from left wing to right centre at different times this season had made it harder to get into games, but added he was looking forward to reconnecting with John Bateman and Jordan Rapana this weekend.
"It's been a bit different this year missing a couple of games because of injury and going searching for a bit more ball," he said.
"Now it's a case of trying to get those combinations going on the right edge now BJ [Leilua] is going to be out a couple of weeks, but there's little things to work on this week."
Leilua's suspension hands Bailey Simonsson a chance to continue his impressive start to his NRL career as he takes Cotric's normal role on the left outside Jarrod Croker.
"I just prepared as I would for any other game, but it was just different in the sense I didn't know when I was going to come on during the game," Simsonsson said of coming off the bench.
"Stick (Ricky Stuart) and the coaches were pretty clear with me during the week for me to come on and bring a bit of energy in the ruck if I was in the middle.
"I just tried to have some carries, bring a bit of energy to the boys out there and simplify it.
"But it's a good thing for me to learn in my first year and if I can soak up as much experience in different scenarios, it's only go be a good outcome for me."
The comeback stories continued for Canberra last week with Hudson Young earning 26 minutes in his return from suspension.
"I didn't feel too bad on the weekend considering I've been out for a little bit, but I'm sure when my time comes for more minutes 'Stick' will look after that," Hudson said.
The 21-year-old has impressed many at the Raiders this season, but his suspension for an eye-gouge forced him to take stock.
"It taught me not to take anything for granted and that you've to work for everything you've got here," Young said.
"It was probably a good thing I didn't come straight back into first grade, it made me want it even more so to go back to Mounties to work even harder to earn my opportunity in the first team."