A pair of exciting youngsters will be eager to mark their mark when Canberra kick off their NRL season against Cronulla on Friday night.
Halfback Brad Schneider, 21, will steer the Raiders around the field in just his second NRL game while centre James Schiller, 20, will make his first-grade debut as Canberra unleash potential future stars to drive a rise up the ladder after missing the finals last year.
Coach Ricky Stuart said both players had earned their opportunity to show what they can do in the big time.
“I told Brad early in the preparation he was going to be playing because I wanted him to get excited, enjoy it, celebrate the opportunity of playing probably his first real game,” Stuart told reporters.
“He’s in a very important role, but we wouldn’t put him in if we didn’t think he was anywhere near capable … he’s worked very hard over the last two years.
“Every challenge we’ve given (Schiller) he’s really aimed up for.
“It’s not so much the trials that we were looking at it that’s the training that we’re doing … he’s handled his transition from NSW Cup into first grade training and trials really well.”
Schneider steps up in the absence of recruit Jamal Fogarty, who will miss at least four months with a meniscus injury suffered in the Raiders’ second pre-season trial.
Schiller finds a spot in the backs with star winger Jordan Rapana suspended until round three and captain Jarrod Croker asked to work his way back from knee surgery in reserve grade.
The Raiders have won their past six clashes with the Sharks, while they have also triumphed in round one three years running.
Stuart confirmed he’d seen comments made by Ryan Sutton’s partner Kate Ford after the prop was left out of the side, having reportedly signed a contract with Canterbury from next season.
Ford posted the Raiders’ team list and wrote “and I thought the fashion industry was bitchy”, but Stuart said the door was far from closed for Sutton.
“If I commented on that behaviour I’ll be the one in trouble,” he said.
“If he plays good football in second grade he’ll be like everyone else, a great chance of playing NRL.”
The 2020 Dally M medallist Jack Wighton will make his 200th NRL appearance in the fixture, with Stuart warning the five-eighth’s best football was yet to come.