Dan Walsh, NRL.com
Boom Raiders halfback Mitch Cornish says his standout performance in the No. 7 jumper against the Tigers is proof coach Ricky Stuart made the right call in denying him a starting berth for the majority of the year.
Stuart, who himself won three premierships for the Green Machine at halfback, has adopted a softly-softly approach with 21-year-old Cornish, despite calls from the media and frustrated fans alike for the youngster to be thrown in the deep end.
Cornish looked right at home in his first run-on start last weekend, engineering the opening two tries in the 27-12 defeat of the Tigers and guiding the Raiders to their first back-to-back wins of 2014.
The former Junior Kangaroos captain had made six appearances from the bench prior to Round 25, but rejected the contention that Stuart should have given him his shot earlier given Canberra's flagging fortunes.
"Ricky did the right thing by me," Cornish told NRL.com.
"We always had a plan for how this year was going to pan out individually for me. So I'm happy with what Rick does and that he's got my best interests at heart, and I think it's been for the better.
"It's a massive confidence boost to be patient and work your way into the NRL rather than being thrown straight in, and I just feel a lot more confident around the boys.
"Each week I feel a bit more confident out there, and I think getting the starting spot now is the right time.
"It's a lot easier to take ownership of the side when you're starting the game and you're able to boss the boys around from the outset "
This time 12 months ago Cornish spoke out against the second tier salary cap rules that preventing him making his NRL debut in the Raiders final game against Cronulla despite interim coach Andrew Dunemann naming him at halfback for the clash.
Cornish labelled the ruling 'unfair' and 'frustrating' at the time, but says Stuart's cautious approach with his development this year has been a different story.
"It wasn't frustrating because I was having a few chats to Ricky about it and he kept telling me where I was at," Cornish says.
"I wanted to get out there, but you never know if you're ready until you actually do.
"I feel like I'm handling it all right and getting better each week, so yeah, I'd say I'm ready."
Canberra will enter the last weekend of the regular season against the Eels gunning for a third-straight win for the first time this year, and the first time in Stuart's coaching career since mid-2009.
The fact that they could deny Stuart's former club Parramatta a finals berth – who currently sit 10th on the ladder and need a win over the Raiders to keep their season alive – is not lost on the Raiders, though prop Shannon Boyd says finishing on a high and sending the retiring Brett White out a winner in his final game will be the club’s main focus.
"It'd be nice to beat the Eels, but it's more of a focus on ourselves; trying to get three games in a row, get everything set up for next year and try and keep the fans happy," Boyd says.
"We haven't had the greatest year so hopefully they get to see us win again.
"Whitey's been really good for me and a couple of other young forwards this year so hopefully we can send him out on a good note and get a win.
"He helps you out with the little things in your game, and just always give you a little talk when you need to have it. He pulls us apart, the whole team, not just us forwards. He's been a good leader for the club and it'll be sad to see him go."