Bailey Simonsson has vowed to make the most of his unexpected finals audition as he prepares to be thrust into a Shark Park pressure cooker on Sunday afternoon.
The Canberra Raiders rookie will return to the starting side for the clash against the Cronulla Sharks and he has two weeks to cement his place before the finals campaign.
Joey Leilua's moment of madness and subsequent suspension has opened the door for Simonsson to give coach Ricky Stuart an end of season selection headache.
It's a shock rise for the former New Zealand rugby union sevens player, who arrived in Canberra without a full-time contract and unsure if he was good enough to make the NRL.
But the 21-year-old said his 16 games so far this season and an unlikely opportunity to play in the finals vindicated his decision to walk away from a potential Olympic Games chance.
"It was a pretty good call to come back to rugby league, but I didn't have anything cemented when I came to Canberra," Simonsson said.
"When I got here it was a trial and train deal, then I got moved to the development squad and eventual the top 30. I had a desire and an opportunity to train. So yeah, this does make it all worth it.
"I was confident that if I came here and worked hard, I'd get some rewards. I'm glad I made that decision."
Simonsson has come off the bench in the past two weeks, but Leilua's two-week ban means Nick Cotric will shift to right centre and Simonsson will return to the left wing.
The fact Leilua has played just two games since suffering a career-threatening neck injury in May means Simonsson will be putting pressure on his place in the team when the finals begin in two weeks.
The Raiders are still aiming for a top-four spot after spending most of the season near the top of the ladder, but one slip in the last two regular-season rounds will have massive implications for their title hopes.
Tickets have already sold out for the clash against the Sharks, who are fighting for their place in the top eight and will be determined to give captain Paul Gallen a fitting home-ground farewell.
Simonsson is unfazed by the challenge and has become used to the extra intensity of the NRL, highlighted by Melbourne captain Cameron Smith pulling his ear during a tackle two weeks ago.
"I don't even remember [the ear pull]," Simonsson grinned. "It happened really fast ... I was just trying to get up and play the ball."
Simonsson is the only change to Canberra's starting side, which has set its sights on making amends for a pre-finals hiccup last week.
Cotric stands as the other man to benefit from Leilua's absence as he attempts to find the form that catapulted him into the NSW State of Origin side this year.
Cotric 28 tries in his first two seasons as an NRL player, but has managed just three from 17 games so far this year in an injury and suspension interrupted campaign.
"It was a bit difficult this year missing a couple of weeks, I guess searching for the ball is something I've got to do more of," Cotric said.
"We've got to get the combinations going on the right edge because [Leilua's] going to be out for two weeks.
"I've got to go looking for the ball. We've got a lot of strike players on the left as well ... [Simonsson] has been really good this year, he's fitted in and has been pushing players for their spot."
Cotric and Simonsson are two players yet to get a taste of the NRL finals as Canberra aims for a drought-breaking premiership.
"We've got a lot of improvement left in us. A big crowd [like] this will be good, high-pressure games, it's going to be a big learning curve for me and a few boys who haven't played finals yet. A taste of what's to come."
NRL ROUND 24
Sunday: Cronulla Sharks v Canberra Raiders at Shark Park, 2pm.
Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Nick Cotric, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. John Bateman, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Ryan Sutton. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Dunamis Lui, 16. Corey Horsburgh, 17. Hudson Young, 18. Sam Williams, 19. Emre Guler, 20. Michael Oldfield, 21. Tom Starling.
Sharks squad: 1. Josh Dugan, 2. Sione Katoa, 3. Bronson Xerri, 4. Josh Morris, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Shaun Johnson, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Wade Graham, 13. Paul Gallen. Interchange: 14. Kurt Capewell, 15. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 16. Andrew Fifita, 17. Jayson Bukuya, 18. Billy Magoulias, 19. Blayke Brailey, 20. Kyle Flanagan, 21. Matt Moylan.