Raiders playmaker Sam Williams is hoping a strong performance in his club's last-gasp trial win over the Eels on Friday night will work in his favour but acknowledges coach Ricky Stuart is likely to prefer a halves pairing of Jack Wighton and Aidan Sezer for round one.
Williams sold the Eels a dummy to bag a clever solo try roughly a minute from full-time to close the score to 20-16 before nailing the sideline conversion from a runaway Andre Niko – one he helped create – in the dying moments to steal the two-point win.
Both clubs recognise the result wasn't of great importance; Canberra fielded very few certain NRL starters and the Eels played the final 20 minutes with juniors and Wentworthville players.
However for Williams, who is battling for an NRL berth and has close to 100 NRL caps over an eight-year career, it was an important night.
"It's always nice to get the competitive juices flowing. Just being back in that competitive nature I think all the boys enjoyed that. That’s the main thing, just getting back out the playing and hopefully neither side at had any injuries and got through it," Williams said.
Match: Eels v Raiders
Round 1 -
Venue: St Marys Leagues Stadium
Williams praised the largely very youthful squad for having a proper crack. Depth forwards like Jack Murchie, Corey Horsburgh, JJ Collins and Hudson Young were strong.
Young hooker and former Knight Tom Starling was extremely sharp. Williams's halves partner Dean Matterson had some excellent moments as his older brother, Roosters premiership-winner and star Wests Tigers recruit Ryan Matterson watched on from the St Marys stands.
"It just showed we had a lot of young guys tonight who really had a good crack … it's a good experience for a lot of young boys and I'm sure they took it out of it," Williams said.
"The first 40 they had a lot of good players. We spoke about it being a good test and a chance to try and make a bit of a name for themselves for some of these young boys by going out there and a lot of them put their hands up. That's all you can ask for.
"The first 40 we didn't see a lot of footy but we worked really hard defensively as a unit.
"It was only a trial game but the competitive juices flowing and you want to win everything in you play in. For us to come out and win the game it’s a really big tick for the young players."
Williams's competitive edge was certainly on show as he iced the sideline conversion while the scoreboard read 20-20 at full time to steal a two-point win.
However that scoreboard had confused journalists in attendance, who believed Williams had converted all three previous tries which should have meant Canberra were already ahead 22-20 once the final try was scored.
"I'll be honest with you, I don’t know why the scoreboard said 20-20 because I kicked all three goals, so it should’ve been 22-20!" Williams laughed.
"I looked up and thought I better kick this anyway in case I was delusional but if I hadn’t kicked that I would have been telling them to go back and check it!"
Of his own round one prospects, Williams seemed resigned to having to wait for his chance to convince coach Ricky Stuart he deserves an NRL jersey.
"I think Aidan and Jack will get first crack next week in the trial. Ricky knows my game pretty well, he knows where I sit with everything," Williams said.
"You obviously want to play first grade whenever you can. I don't know exactly where it's all at at the moment. It’s just important to come out on a night like this when you've got an opportunity. We came out and won the game and that's all you can control."
One of the key talking points for Raiders fans out of the trial will be who warrants a shot at Wighton's vacated No.1 jersey.
Plenty believed budding superstar Nick Cotric would be a shoo-in but he now looks likely to retain a wing spot – a role that will be even more important through the first half of the season with Jordan Rapana out injured on the opposite flank.
Other candidates include brand new recruit Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, freshly promoted top-30 squad member Bailey Simmonson, plus existing squad members Brad Abbey and Michael Oldfield.
Simmonson got first crack in the trial but had a mixed night with one costly error and another couple of shaky moments. Nicoll-Klokstad was moved back there after half an hour and despite starting in unconvincing fashion, warmed into his task and produced some dangerous runs as the trial wore on. Abbey was in the trial squad but had little opportunity to stake a claim.
"I thought they were both really good. Charnze hasn’t had a lot of time in the group, he’s really new and will be better for the run. Bailey is also a young kid learning the position and he is a phenomenal athlete so that’s not an issue," Williams said of the fullback contest.