The Canberra Raiders' ball boy could emerge as the unlikely glimmer of hope in a bid to overcome an injury crisis that has club stalwarts in disbelief.
Tom Starling could be poised to return to Ricky Stuart's 17 as the Canberra coach looks to fill the void left by Josh Hodgson after he suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear.
Siliva Havili and Starling could share the hooking duties when the Raiders meet the Sydney Roosters at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday night.
Sam Williams and Matt Frawley loom as the other options but both would be playing out of position if they were to get the nod over 22-year-old Starling.
The prospect of his fifth NRL game comes after Starling spent the best part of the rebooted season as Canberra's ball boy, with the league opting to use those inside the "bubble" for the job to avoid the risk of a coronavirus outbreak.
"Funny that, he's been giving me cheek [when I'm] goal kicking over the past three or four weeks and now he's out there on the field. It's good for Starlo," Raiders captain Jarrod Croker said.
"We spoke straight away as soon as we got back from this break, we did say it's going to take a lot of players. It's not going to take 18 or 19 players to get through this competition, it's going to take your whole squad.
"Players have got to be ready to go. There have been days where guys have been out there getting flogged thinking 'what are we doing here, not playing footy every weekend?'
"We saw Kai O'Donnell on the weekend make his debut and match it with the Melbourne Storm. He probably didn't expect that three or four weeks ago, or when we came back from COVID.
"Starlo has got a little bit of first grade experience but he was probably doing the same thing a couple of weeks ago, running around and getting flogged for the sake of it. Now he's in and possibly playing against the premiers this week."
By definition this will be a grand final rematch - but in actual fact it looms as anything but with as many as 16 players who featured in the 2019 decider potentially unavailable this week.
Canberra will be without Hodgson, Bailey Simonsson (shoulder), John Bateman (shoulder), Sia Soliola (facial fracture), Emre Guler (ankle) and Corey Horsburgh (lisfranc) due to injury, while Joey Leilua and Aidan Sezer left the club after last year's grand final.
The Roosters could be without eight of their premiership-winning stars with Victor Radley (ACL), Sam Verrills (ACL), Daniel Tupou (syndesmosis), Isaac Liu (rib), and Brett Morris (groin) under an injury cloud. Boyd Cordner is expected to return from a concussion. Latrell Mitchell and Cooper Cronk are no longer donning the tricolours.
"We're built on a team full of leaders. Even though we do have a lot of players going down, I know everyone will really step up," Canberra forward Dunamis Lui said.
"We know we've got to do it together, we can't just rely on one or two people to lead from the front, we've all got to go together. It's going to be a really big challenge.
"There's Toota [Croker] still there, Paps [Josh Papalii]. Even boys like Joey Tapine and Smell [Elliott Whitehead], there's a whole lot of boys I could name. We all know we're all in this together and everyone is going to step up.
"Even though I wasn't playing, I was still working like everyone else does when they're not playing. I made sure whenever I got named in the team I was ready. You never stop working in that aspect."
NRL ROUND 10
Thursday: Sydney Roosters v Canberra Raiders at Sydney Cricket Ground, 7.50pm.