Panthers recruit Sean O'Sullivan is confident he can step in and replace Nathan Cleary if the premiership-winning halfback is unavailable for the season-opener against Manly on March 10.
Cleary, who is on the comeback from shoulder surgery, watched on as a young Panthers outfit ran in six tries against Cronulla to secure a 34-6 victory in the club's first trial on Sunday.
O'Sullivan and rookie Kurt Falls combined well in the 28-point win to give Panthers coach Ivan Cleary food for thought should Cleary not be available in round one.
Cleary started contact training earlier this month following surgery in October but is no guarantee to start the season.
"Nath is on his own timeline and if he's not ready I'll be ready to go," O'Sullivan said.
"If he is ready I'll be supporting him 100 per cent. He's the best halfback in the competition. It's just been awesome just being able to learn off him.
Mavrik Geyer showing some serious skill to score
"He's had so much time for me. We watch training together after when we hang out so it's been good."
It was a welcome return home to the Panthers for O'Sullivan, who started his junior career at the club when he was aged 12 before being signed by the Roosters in his teens.
After further stints at the Broncos and Warriors, the Glenmore Park junior is now eyeing off the chance to make his club debut in 2022, regardless of whether Cleary is fit in the early rounds.
"It would be awesome, a dream come true," he said.
Kurt Falls opens the scoring
"I started in the under 12s as a development player so it would be awesome to be a Panther.
"I've grown up with all these boys, we all went to school together. Romey (Jarome Luai) and I went to school together and have been playing against each other since we were 12.
"The bond we all have is special. Physically we looked really good and are building combinations so that's the main thing.
"Last year is last year. We've got a new squad and will do new things together.
O'Sullivan produced his best season in the NRL Telstra Premiership while at the Warriors last season, playing a dozen games and scoring two tries.
"I took a lot of confidence from playing the most games in grade," he said.
"Hopefully I can bank on that this year and take some confidence into whenever I get a shot again in the NRL.
"This is my first full pre-season and it's really good. I've set up a good building block for the year so I'm happy with it."
O'Sullivan is likely to get another chance to push his claims in the club's second trial against Parramatta on Saturday.