Mitch Cornish has been named on the bench for Sunday's match against a depleted North Queensland outfit. Photo: Melissa Adams
The Canberra Raiders have shelved one experimental halves combination, but they will gamble on another by handing Junior Kangaroos representative Mitch Cornish his NRL debut this weekend.
Having cast Jack Wighton back into the centres, the struggling Raiders continue to keep their halves options open by promoting 21-year-old Cornish to the bench for Sunday's match against a State of Origin and injury-depleted North Queensland at Canberra Stadium.
The rookie Goulburn product will provide back-up to veteran halves Terry Campese and Josh McCrone, but his selection will also keep the pair on their toes as the Raiders look for answers to break their three-game losing streak.
The promotion of Cornish to the Raiders bench comes after he was named to make his NRL debut in the final round of last year.
However, he was unable to play after the Raiders were denied from having an exemption to their second-tier salary cap.
Cornish has been in impressive form for the Mounties in the NSW Cup and is expected to slot into the halves when McCrone moves to dummy-half to give hooker Glen Buttriss a rest.
Campese appeared more comfortable during last Sunday's 26-20 loss to Penrith with his old partner McCrone back alongside him in the halves to shoulder more of the attacking load.
The pair generally play on the left and right side of the field respectively, but Campese was encouraged by the times they were able to link up.
''I wouldn't mind combining with him a little bit more and we'll try and figure out a way to get that more in our game,'' Campese said.
"We saw some combinations start to work well and it suited the team.''
Cornish captained the Raiders' under-20s team for the past two seasons and has represented Australia and NSW at under-20s.
He comes on to the Raiders' bench in place of second-rower Joel Edwards, who moves into the starting side to replace Maroons representative Josh Papalii.
Papalii is the Raiders' lone Origin selection, while the Cowboys will be missing Queensland trio Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott and Brent Tate, along with NSW prop James Tamou.
Season-ending injuries to Gavin Cooper and Cameron King have forced the Cowboys to make five changes to the starting team that beat the Roosters last weekend.
While admitting the absence of Thurston, in particular, was a massive blow to the Cowboys, Raiders centre Jarrod Croker believes the visitors are battle hardened for the representative period.
''There's something about teams who lose players around Origin, they seem to rev up and go just as good,'' Croker said.
''There will be a few new blokes coming into the team keen to prove their worth and they will definitely be a tough challenge.
"We will have to have a similar attitude to what we started with on Sunday.''