Mitch Cornish has been touted as the Raiders' man of the future. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra Raiders playmaker Mitch Cornish insists he's happy to bide his time on the NRL fringes, saying he does not feel the pressure to save the Green Machine's season and wants to forge a long career in the capital.
Cornish will continue his development when he joins three Raiders teammates in the NSW Residents' side as the curtain-raiser for the State of Origin contest at Suncorp Stadium next weekend.
But the 21-year-old's ultimate goal is to cement his place in the Raiders' NRL line-up. His brief taste of first-grade action has made him more determined to break back into the squad.
Cornish has played three games from the Raiders bench this year – coach Ricky Stuart is opting to ease the talented halfback into NRL duties.
But instead of getting frustrated with a return to the NSW Cup, Cornish is using his experiences to ensure he's ready for a recall if he's needed.
"Ricky's got his plan for me, when I'm ready to up there and stay there full-time he will let me know," Cornish said.
"The plan was always to have two or three weeks [in the NRL] to get me up there and see what first grade was like, it was more of a learning curve to get that experience.
"Hopefully in the next year at pre-season I can work for a starting spot. All I wanted to do was debut this year, now I just want to concentrate on becoming consistent and look at starting next year."
Cornish, a former Australian junior representative, has been touted as the Raiders' man of the future.
But with the Raiders struggling for form – they have won just four of their 15 games this year – Stuart is sticking by the experience of Terry Campese and Josh McCrone.
Cornish's contract expires at the end of next year and he wants to forge a successful career in the capital instead of being lured away.
He does not feel the weight of expectation to be the club's saviour.
"I don't read into anything, I don't take it as pressure. I'm still learning and Ricky has a plan," Cornish said.
"I'd love my future to be in Canberra, I'm happy here and I've got family here. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else, I'm looking to stay here long term."
The Raiders have a bye this weekend before returning to action against Gold Coast on July 13.
They have won just one of their past eight games and their season is precariously placed as they attempt to avoid the wooden spoon.
Cornish could come into contention in the coming weeks as Stuart eyes a plan for the future.
But he said his only focus was getting game time in the NSW Cup with the Mounties and his coming senior representative debut.
Cornish, Jack Ahearn, Mark Nicholls and Jake Foster will all play for the NSW Residents side against Queensland Residents.
"I played in the under-20s State of Origin and I got a massive buzz out of that," he said.
"This has been a learning year for me, I'm just getting experience and I'm happy with how it's going.
"It's my first year out of the under-20s so I'm taking it all in. The little taste of NRL made me hungry to try to get back up there and work as hard as I could.
"You hurt for the boys [when the team loses], it hurts not getting wins as a club and the recognition. You can't fault the effort, but it's a rebuilding year and there are tough times and good times."