The Canberra Raiders' Jersey Flegg Cup side have emerged as the unlikely saviours of the local rugby league competition to ensure the first grade season kicks off in 2020.
The inclusion of the under 20s outfit means the Canberra Raiders Cup is likely to go ahead as a four-team competition while the door is still open for other clubs to make a last-ditch return.
Canberra Region Rugby League general manager Mark Vergano is poised to make an announcement on the league's immediate future on Monday.
The Raiders under 20s join the Queanbeyan Blues, Gungahlin Bulls and Woden Valley Rams in committing for the 2020 season, slated to begin on July 18.
The Goulburn Bulldogs and Yass Magpies opted to withdraw this week, with the West Belconnen Warriors, Queanbeyan Kangaroos, Belconnen Sharks and Tuggeranong Bushrangers already pulling out.
Canberra's under 20s coach Ash Barnes, who led Woden to Canberra Raiders Cup success in 2018, is bringing his squad back together after the NSWRL cancelled the Jersey Flegg Cup campaign earlier this year.
"The Jersey Flegg competition was suspended by NSWRL so they haven't been playing at all, along with everyone else. They had no prospect of coming back," Vergano said.
"Some of those players will play for their allocated clubs if they are juniors or have been allocated to those clubs for some time. The rest play for the Raiders.
"That's part of the program, to give them some rugby league. For some it's building towards playing next season with the Raiders. Ash Barnes is reassembling the team at the moment. They'll be a good test.
"Blues are reigning premiers, Woden have been battle hardened and Gungahlin is a team that has had a tough time in recent years. Under the leadership of Pat O'Sullivan as president and coach Neil Nijorac, they're certainly about rebuilding themselves. They're really wanting to compete.
"It's a terrific effort by these clubs to get rugby league up. The resilience of these clubs and their desire to have young people participating in rugby league is great."
The second-tier George Tooke Shield is likely to go ahead, with Vergano in discussions with a host of clubs to join four who have already committed.
Other Canberra competitions including reserve grade, under 19s and women's leagues are still in development.
Blues player-coach Terry Campese concedes a smaller competition was inevitable after some country leagues were axed.
Now the reigning premiers are leaving the door open for players from rival clubs to join in search of game time this year.
"We're in. It's to be expected I guess, it's hard when clubs are low on sponsorships and there's not much money filtering through the competition," Campese said.
"It's a combination of factors to be fair. If blokes want to play football, and they want to come over, then we will welcome anyone. You don't want to lose anyone to playing the game they want to play, especially with union knocking on the door, you don't want to lose blokes to rugby either.
"We had 50 blokes turning up prior to COVID, we had really good numbers. It was probably the most we have ever had since I have been involved."