Ricky Stuart Photo: Getty Images
Canberra teenager Nick Cotric is poised to be handed one of the NRL's toughest assignments - a round-one debut against North Queensland in Townsville.
The departure of Edrick Lee to Cronulla has opened up a spot for the highly rated 18-year-old, with the Raiders leaving Canberra on Tuesday to acclimatise to the humid conditions ahead of Saturday night's match.
"He's very excited for this weekend but he's got a level head on him and, come game time, he knows his job and he knows what he's got to do," stand-in Raiders captain Josh Hodgson said.
Cotric has brought his youthful exuberance to the training track as the Raiders prepare for a season with heightened expectations.
"He's constantly running around all over the field and asking me to put kicks into the corner for him," Hodgson said.
Nick Cotric Photo: Getty Images
Cotric played last season for Canberra's under-20s side, switching between centre and fullback, but could also play on the wing.
After turning 18 in November, Cotric has bulked up to 98kgs in his first NRL pre-season.
"He's big, he's very athletic and we're pumped to have him on board," veteran forward Sia Soliola said.
"We've got to help him out in that area and try to keep him composed and not lose too much nervous energy before the game."
Injured skipper Jarrod Croker and suspended prop Junior Paulo travelled to Townsville on Tuesday despite being ruled out of the match.
Soliola is backing the club's depth to cover the loss of two important players.
"The way we train, and that's what the whole point of pre-season, is to train guys to that level when your experienced players fall through injury or suspension," Soliola said.
Soliola's versatility is one of his main assets, with coach Ricky Stuart using him last year in a variety of roles.
"We've still got a few days to try and get a gauge on where I'll be but I've been training around both back row and the middle section," Soliola said.
"We'll see what Ricky comes up with in the next couple of days."
While the Cowboys present a stiff first-up test, Soliola believes possession holds the key to breaking an 11-year drought in Townsville.
"This time of year, you want to be on the ball and getting as much possession as you can," Soliola said.
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