If former Canberra Raiders captain Terry Campese had his way, he wouldn't have Jake Wheeler in his Queanbeyan Blues side.
Wheeler would be on an NRL list.
Campese was full of praise for how Wheeler's led the Blues as acting captain in his absence - the young centre reminding Campese after the game he was undefeated as skipper.
But he's not the only player who's grown while he's been out of the side.
Campese's been away coaching and unable to attend a judicial hearing for a send off for dissent so can't play until that's been resolved.
There's also the halves Zach Patch and Jordan Williams, who have had to lead the team in his absence.
"The leaders are standing up. It's probably good that I'm not out there talking as much as I normally do because everyone else has to pick that up and they're doing a great job," Campese said. "Jake Wheeler, who I think could play NRL. I think he's that quality of player, that's how highly I think of him, he's skippering the side and doing a great job."
Wheeler led a 12-man Blues side to a 34-10 victory over the Belconnen United Sharks at O'Connor on Saturday.
It was part of a Canberra Raiders Cup theme where the team that had a player sent off ended up winning.
The Blues' crosstown rivals Queanbeyan Kangaroos also had a player sent off, but held on to beat second-placed Goulburn 18-14 at Freebody Oval.
The Kangaroos had Jonah Latu sent from the field for striking with about 10 minutes remaining, just minutes after they'd gone ahead through a Troy Whiley try.
It keeps them in touch with the top four, albeit three points behind the Bulldogs, Blues and Woden Valley Rams.
The Rams accounted for the Yass Magpies 24-14 at Yass. But back to the Blues.
They were reduced to 12 for most of the second half after back-up hooker Sateki Fetuani was sent off for striking, although the Sharks also had Sam Mataora sent to sin bin at the same time.
The Blues were leading 18-4 and they ran in three unanswered tries before Belconnen scored a consolation with Joe Vejvoda scoring a long range effort in the dying seconds.
Fetuani wasn't the only hooker they lost on the day with No.9 Charlie Woolford limping from the field with a potential meniscus injury to his knee.
"Our hooker got injured and our reserve hooker got sent off," Campese said.
"We've got a few troops coming back in the next few weeks, which is good for the club." The game was close early after Nicolas Marshall opened the scoring for the Blues, until David Williams took advantage of a great offload from Tolo Aroha to cut the margin to 6-4. From there, the Blues exploded into life, with their middles running rampant.
Josh Hitchins and Sam Taholo barged over, then Blues halfback Jordan Williams grubbered for himself to score.
Blues fullback Mathew Parsons ran nearly the length of the field to score after swooping on a loose ball, while Jack Williams capitalised on a short Belconnen goal-line drop-out to cross in the corner.
The Sharks had enjoyed a good month - beating Gungahlin, West Belconnen and Yass, and only losing to the Kangaroos by one point - but coach Scott Logan said the Blues "beat them to the punch in most areas of the game".
"We've made some good inroads in the last month in terms of where we want to be and where we're going and we probably took a backward step today, but that's a lesson to be learnt," Logan said.
The round wraps up on Sunday when the Warriors host the ladder-leading Tuggeranong Bushrangers at Holt at 2pm.