Titans trialist Cameron Cullen is edging closer to an NRL debut as early as Round 1 after impressing in a relatively short amount of game time in Saturday's 22-20 trial loss to South Sydney at Pizzey Park.
A former Broncos under-20s player who played alongside Jack Wighton, Tautau Moga, Chris Grevsmuhl and James Tedesco in the 2010 Australian Schoolboys, Cullen returned to the Gold Coast over the off-season after a year with the Mackay Cutters in the Intrust Super Cup and the tragic passing of his brother Justin last July.
The season-ending knee injury to Kane Elgey saw the 22-year-old issued with a 'train and trial' contract with the Titans in January and given the disrupted nature of Ashley Taylor's pre-season a start alongside Tyrone Roberts in Round 1 is not out of the question.
A nuggety type who plays sharp and direct, Cullen scored a try off a big left-foot step late in the first half against the Rabbitohs and looked the man most likely as the Titans tried to fight back from a 22-14 deficit late in the game.
He laid on a try for back-rower Zeb Taia with a perfectly-timed short ball four minutes from full-time and brought Titans fans to their feet with a burst into the back-field as the seconds counted down.
Signed to play with Burleigh in the Intrust Super Cup this season, Cullen is hopeful of learning his fate sometime in the next seven days.
"I wouldn't have a clue. I'm sure Neil [Henry, Titans coach] will catch up with me through the week and let me know his plans but I can only control what I can control so I guess it's up to them now," Cullen told NRL.com.
"I've got no idea. I just had to come out here and play some good footy and I did that so I was pretty happy with that. Now I've just got to see how it pans out."
Henry expects Taylor to recover sufficiently from a shoulder problem to take his place in the team for Round 1 against the Knights but admitted that Cullen had put forward a very strong case for a permanent place on the roster.
"He's proved [against the Rabbitohs] that he's got something," Henry told NRL.com.
"A couple of nice kicks, a good try, set up another one and he plays nice and direct.
"He's come along in the last couple of weeks which means he's pushing for a second-tier [contract] but we'll have to see."
The Titans are looking at the prospect of taking a halves combination of Roberts and Taylor into Round 1 with no shared game time between them.
Taylor has been inconvenienced through the pre-season by fingers that he fractured in his NRL debut in Round 26 last year and then picked up a slight shoulder injury against the Eels in Alice Springs last week.
Not risked against the Rabbitohs, Henry said Taylor would have played had it been a competition game but conceded that any more injury worries would open the door for Cullen or Daniel Mortimer to wear the No.7 against the Knights.
"He's gaining in confidence. He had a good game against Parramatta in Alice Springs, particularly around some good kicks and carrying the ball and he did the same today. It's good for him confidence-wise," Henry said of Cullen's progression.
"There's no doubt with Kane Elgey out we need someone and we need back-up in that position and the way he's playing we'll have to take a serious look at him.
"It is difficult but [Roberts and Taylor] have done a lot of opposed sessions together at training so they've certainly done a lot of hours together.
"It's going to be tested Round 1 but if [Taylor] was to reinjure at training then 'Cullo' has done a good job or Daniel Mortimer with the utility value and some coverage around our hookers as well."