Back-rower Joe Tapine will have to overcome a fitness test to force his way back into the Canberra Raiders side as halfback Aidan Sezer braces for up to three more weeks on the sidelines.
Tapine has been named in Canberra's extended squad but his thumb injury will be assessed before the team departs for Townsville to meet the North Queensland Cowboys on Saturday.
The New Zealand international's potential absence leaves English import John Bateman in the second row while Sam Williams will line up at halfback to plug the gap left by Sezer as he nurses an oblique injury.
"I won’t play either of the boys if they aren’t 100 per cent well and truly fit. We’re better off resting it at this time of the year rather than aggravating an injury," Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said.
"It’s something we’re very fortunate [to have] here as a club or a squad, that John can fill a number of positions. We’ve seen him do that, he’s played in lock, centres and back-row now over three games.
"He has proven pretty quickly he has got a bit of utility value now. It’s been ended because we’ve had injuries there."
Sezer's absence will leave Williams to take the reins alongside Jack Wighton at five-eighth a week after he steered the Raiders to a tight victory over Newcastle.
"I was really happy for Sam because he had a good contribution to the game," Stuart said.
"He has worked hard over the off-season. It’s pretty difficult for him, he didn’t know if he was going to be playing half or he was competing with Aidan.
"When he got his opportunity, he really aimed up and it was good for Sammy."
Joey Leilua is free to line up in the centres after entering an early guilty plea for a grade one dangerous contact charge on Newcastle forward Tim Glasby last week.
Stuart says Leilua needs to understand rival teams will try to goad him into lashing out but he will not ask the Samoan international to curb his aggressive nature on the park.
"I want him to keep that aggression. He’s an intimidating big thing out on that edge," Stuart said.
"There was a reason he did whack out at Glasby, unfortunately you just can’t do that. You’ve got to put that reason to bed there in that moment.
"I’ve spoken to BJ about it and he was remorseful about it, he doesn’t like doing that type of stuff but he is a guy that is maturing in a way that it’s becoming less [frequent].
"He gets targeted, and he’s got to learn the fact he does get targeted. He’s got to make better decisions in those moments."
NRL ROUND FOUR
Saturday: North Queensland Cowboys v Canberra Raiders in Townsville, 5.30pm. TV: Live on Fox League.
Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Sam Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Ryan Sutton. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Hudson Young, 16. Sia Soliola, 17. Corey Horsburgh. Reserves: 18. Joe Tapine, 19. Jack Murchie, 20. Bailey Simonsson, 21. JJ Collins.