Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler was mostly unfazed by Sunday's 52-18 trial defeat against the Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval because he didn't use several stars.
Hasler kept captain Daly Cherry-Evans, Kieran Foran, Jake Trbojevic, Dylan Walker, Jason Saab and Lachlan Croker on ice while Tom Trbojevic is out until about round four due to a hamstring issue.
The Sea Eagles copped a bigger setback than the scoreline with hooker Cade Cust suffering a suspected broken thumb during a tackle on Luciano Leilua in the 25th minute.
It leaves Croker as the likely No.9 for the season-opener against the Roosters, with Hasler saying the utility was "fine" despite reports of a hamstring issue at training last week.
Schuster plays short to Ben Trbojevic
"It was a trial, so you can't take too much more out of that. I'm not making excuses – Wests would be very happy with what they got – but we came into the trial with seven players out. We rested them for different reasons," Hasler told reporters.
"We purely rested [Croker]. They've got to come back in. The only one out of that seven who won't come back in will be Tom.
"We wanted to look at a few of the players, particularly some of the younger players. There were a couple of players who I thought performed very well."
Cust was going for X-rays after the match with the results to be known on Monday. He could be sidelined for a month or more at worst.
Weekes on the spot as Wests Tigers spill the ball at the back
Hasler gave particular praise to forward recruits Josh Aloiai, who faced his former team with heavy strapping on the knee he injured last year, and ex-Eel Andrew Davey.
"Aloiai – I thought he came on [from the bench] and made a difference, and I thought Davey in the second half was strong," Hasler said.
He added that Morgan Harper, who played at fullback in Tom Trbojevic's absence and pulled off one particularly noteworthy try-saving tackle, performed solidly.
"He did really well. We'll break it down tomorrow and see where we are at. He's a good footy player. It's a good option to fall back on," Hasler said.
Precocious 19-year-old five-eighth Josh Schuster was a shining light, setting up the opening try for Kaeo Weekes with a cross-field kick, putting Ben Trbojevic over with a sweet short ball and scoring himself.
"There were some aspects of [Schuster's] game that were really strong, and aspects that he's still working on. He's only young, so he'll continue to work on those aspects.
"But he's going to be a great player."