The loss of Josh Hodgson was expected to derail Canberra's 2020 campaign but new dummy-half rotation Siliva Havili and Tom Starling earned a big tick of approval after one of their most impressive wins in recent memory.
Havili started the game before being replaced after 30 minutes by Starling, who played out the match with the Tongan international later returning in the lock role.
Starling was a constant threat through the middle, poking his nose through the defensive line with some sharp runs and held up a nice short ball for Josh Papalii to gallop through a yawning gap to score what proved to be the match-winning try against the Roosters at the SCG.
Havili did well to soak up the early salvos and also ended up logging 50 minutes.
"Ricky [Stuart] spoke to the fringe players at the start of the year saying 'we're going to need you at one stage of the year so keep ready'," Starling said after his first proper hit-out since March.
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"Without reserve grade it's a bit harder but we've got a really good squad down there, we're all working hard.
"We've drawn a lot on our extended squad, we talked a lot about staying ready, once our opportunity comes we have to take it with both hands."
The 22-year-old rake said getting through a lengthy stint in a win over the Roosters would help give him confidence that he was up to the task every week.
Stuart praises his middle men
"We've got a lot of time to build and keep moving forward. We've still got a lot to work on," he said.
"We've got a new spine with me and Liva jumping in that hooker role now, we have to keep working with the halves and start building combinations.
"The boys around me really helped me out, talking to me to get me through the game. It's my first game since round one of the NSW Cup. We've been working hard knowing this day would come."
Stuart said he thought both men did very well.
"Liva gets a bit of practice with the main squad at nine, more so than Tommy has over the last few weeks," he said.
"The way Tommy Starling took his opportunity and played 50 straight minutes after not playing a lot of football at all shows you the work at training he's done outside the main 17 that's been playing in the first part of the competition.
"He's done a lot of work so to get through that intensity of match and minutes tonight was a huge effort.
"There's no short-cuts in his preparation, he works hard and what he's got going for him as well is all the boys like playing with him.
"Tommy as a person is a good solid kid. He's got to back up and do it again now."