Luke Bateman is proof the Auckland Nines is not just a 'hit and giggle' tournament, urging his young Canberra Raiders teammates to use the pre-season event as a chance to press their claims for an NRL berth.
Twelve months after the Nines helped propel Bateman to his NRL debut, the 21-year-old hopes another trip to New Zealand can ignite his 2016 hopes.
Bateman will be the most experienced Nines player in the Raiders line-up, despite playing just six games in the regular NRL season last year.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is giving players such as Bateman, Papua New Guinea recruit Kato Ottio, Lachlan Croker, Thomas Cronan and Jack Williams a chance to impress at the Nines.
And if anyone has doubts about whether performances transfer to first-grade opportunities, they only need to ask Bateman.
"It started at the Nines for me. I went pretty well there and it snowballed through the trials and I got my debut in round one last season," Bateman said.
"The Nines was definitely that starting point for me. I was pretty nervous going over last year, but those nerves have gone now and are replaced by excitement because I know how good it is.
"For the more senior blokes with cemented spots in the NRL, it might be a bit of fun and ticking the legs over. But for young blokes it's definitely a real opportunity to impress and make a mark in the coach's eyes."
The Raiders have been grouped with the St George Illawarra Dragons, Cronulla Sharks and Gold Coast Titans for the pool stages.
The most-capped player in Green Machine history, Jason Croker, will come out of retirement at the age of 42 to play and pass on his 318 games of experience to a new generation.
Jarrod Croker will skipper the side, while Sisa Waqa, Shannon Boyd and Paul Vaughan add experience to a young crop of players eager to take their opportunity in the spotlight.
For Bateman, a Queensland State of Origin junior, it is a chance to show his development.
The back-rower is one of a handful of Raiders - including Nines teammates Mitch Barnett and Rhys Kennedy - who have been working to develop into potential front-rowers in preparation for an interchange reduction from 10 to eight in the NRL.
"Last year I found it a bit daunting [when I made my NRL debut], and I probably didn't take it with two hands and run with it," Bateman said.
"I guess this year I've really got to try to take my chance when it comes, make a mark and try to cement a spot.
"It's probably a bit of progression and maturity. I've had a taste now so it's not just about the excitement about knowing what I have to do. I'm really confident after last year and the pre-season, so when the chance comes I feel like I can do a lot better than last year."
The Raiders will fly to New Zealand on Thursday to finalise their preparations before starting the tournament on Saturday with a clash against the Dragons at 1.10pm (Australian time).