Canberra Raiders youngster Matt McIlwrick says he is prepared to play through the pain barrier to help ease a possible hooker crisis ahead of the season opener at Penrith.
Scans have confirmed McIlwrick dislocated a rib in Saturday's trial against Wyong and Mounties, but he is optimistic of playing in Canberra's final trial against Canterbury at Goulburn at the weekend.
The Raiders are keen for the 21-year-old to be available for round one selection, with first-choice rake Glen Buttriss still on the comeback trail from two ankle operations.
Coach David Furner is pleased with Buttriss' progress, and the 27-year-old said on Monday he would be right to play if the Raiders had a trial next week.
Veteran Shaun Berrigan has been earmarked for the bench hooker role, and the Raiders are confident both McIlwrick and Buttriss will be available for selection.
Should they fail to prove their fitness, Fairfax Media understands makeshift rake Mick Picker is the next in line to play at dummy half against the Panthers.
Picker has played the majority of his football in the halves, but played the last four games of the Raiders' 2011 season at hooker off the bench.
Furner believes Picker's future lies in the No. 9 jersey, where the 23-year-old played most of last season for NSW Cup affiliate Mounties.
''The doc said it will be sore for a few weeks to come,'' McIlwrick said of his rib injury on Monday.
''It's quite a hard one, I did it twisting in a tackle, and I can't really put a pad on it,'' he said.
''We'll see how it goes, and see how tough I am.
''It's not the nicest pain in the world and not real good to sleep on, but it's getting better by the day and I got a couple of cortisone injections from the doctor.
''It should settle it down, and I really want to get some game time and match fitness by testing myself out against the Bulldogs.''
Furner is set to name a 20 or 21-man squad on Tuesday, with Josh Papalii and Shaun Fensom set to return after sitting out last week.
Prop Brett White played 15 minutes last week in his return from a serious knee injury.
NRL trial match: Canberra Raiders v Canterbury Bulldogs at Goulburn Workers Arena, 7pm. For tickets phone the Goulburn Workers Club on (02) 4821 3355.