Tom Opacic believes this chance at Parramatta is a make or break year for his career, while rookie prop Dave Hollis is looking forward to just playing some footy again after missing a year of his development.
Opacic was recruited by the Eels before Michael Jennings was provisionally suspended after returning a positive A-sample for Ligandrol and Ibutamoren in October although the signing was officially unveiled soon afterwards.
There is a centre jersey up for grabs with Jennings still sidelined, fellow recruit Michael Oldfield out for two months with a knee injury and veteran Brad Takairangi switching to Hull KR in the off-season.
After 19 games in three years at the Broncos from 2016, then 24 in two years at the Cowboys, the 27-year-old knows he needs to get a move on to establish himself as an NRL player.
"It's probably actually make or break for me this year," Opacic told NRL.com.
"I'll be 27 this year. I've been in three different systems now and struggled with injuries here and there and been in and out of teams, I need to knuckle down and cement a spot for the year and kick into gear for the rest of my career."
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Opacic did his early chances no harm, with a solid try-scoring club debut at left centre in a big win over the Dragons last Thursday and is set to run out for the Eels on Saturday night at Penrith against the Panthers in their only official NRL trial.
"There's a spot there if I trial well and I'm going well, I don't see why not," he said.
"It was good to have a first hit out after pre-season. The body's in good shape and I'm as fit as I can be.
"I thought it was a pretty good trial for our team. We held the ball, we tackled well. They scored six points for the game and I think all the other trials were pretty high-scoring.
"The ball was in play a lot. It showed we were fit and ready to go. They're all good signs."
Opacic said it was a privilege to move to a club that had enjoyed success recently and was expected to be among the top sides this year.
"It's just such a great club," he added.
"An opportunity arose to come down here and put my best foot forward. Hopefully I can get a spot in the 17. That was the goal. If I can do that I'll be more than happy.
"Everything they spoke about I liked the sound of. Especially about the club and what their values are. It was a no-brainer to come down here."
One of Opacic's younger teammates on Thursday was Hollis, with the almost-20-year-old playing his first game in nearly a year after the lower grades were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Hollis instead spent 2020 finishing his trade and working on his 'plan B' in case football didn't pan out.
"I hadn't played footy in a fair while so it was good to blow the cobwebs out," Hollis said of the trial.
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"It was tough. I was out of the bubble so I finished off my apprenticeship and did a bit of work.
"I did heavy diesel mechanics. It was good to get it finished. I was on the tools, just a plan B if footy doesn't work out, I've still got a trade behind me."
Still eligible for under-20s through to 2022, Hollis isn't in a rush to break into the NRL team but hopes to finally get some contact against grown men in Canterbury Cup once the season kicks off.
"I just want to take it game by game. It's good here, you've got Junior (Paulo) and Reggie (Campbell-Gillard) who've played representative footy in the position I want to play so just learning off them boys is good," he said.
"I just want to try and get some games under my belt, whatever I'm playing and go from there.
"Obviously I want to push for Canterbury Cup, hopefully secure a starting spot in that then build off that, take it week by week and let my footy go. I'm still eligible for 20s and they've made it under-21s now so I've still technically got another two years of 20s. I'm trying to push for Cup and go from there.
"Playing against hard men, it will be better for my development, getting used to the hits.
"The big picture is to try and make NRL but I just have to try and take it a step at a time. At the moment my role is to try and get a position in Canterbury Cup and just go from there."