Hudson Young doesn't need to be the next John Bateman. He just needs to be the first Hudson Young.
Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has backed his young second-rower to make his own mark on the Green Machine's right edge, starting against the Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
It's not an unfamiliar role for Young, having filled in there over the past two seasons - including when Bateman missed the first half of 2020 due to shoulder surgery.
The 22-year-old showed his versatility last year when he enjoyed a breakout season playing mostly through the middle, but Stuart said the second row was his natural position.
With Corey Harawira-Naera suspended for the opening two rounds due to a drink-driving charge that he'll face in court later this month, Young has first crack at coming into the back row alongside England international Elliott Whitehead.
"He is an edge back-rower. Hudson's versatility is he can play 13 or he can play on the edge," Stuart said.
"His training and preparation over the off-season has been at right back-row so he's done a lot of scrimmaging and a lot of work there with his partner George Williams, who's defending outside him.
"He's a different player to John. They both bring different things to the game.
"I'll never compare them because they're two different styles of player.
"We're very fortunate we've got a very good footballer to fill Johnny's role there."
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Stuart said Young's versatility made him an even more valuable player considering the way the modern game's evolved.
"He's got a lot of good ball-playing ability, he's very explosive and he's got great feet," he said.
"And you'll remember we didn't have John for half the year last year.
"Hudson had to fill in a number of positions last year as well and his versatility is a real bonus - especially in today's style of game."
Stuart revealed Siliva Havili and Ryan Sutton had also trained on the edge during the pre-season.
Havili's been preferred ahead of Tom Starling as the back-up hooker for the returning Josh Hodgson against the Tigers, with the Tonga No.9 also able to play lock.
Sutton cemented himself as an NRL prop last year, with a late knee injury ending his 2020 campaign.
But the pair have also been adding a second-row string to their bow - further increasing the versatility of the Raiders' bench, which also boasts recruit Ryan James playing his first NRL game since 2019 and veteran Sia Soliola.
Havili spent time in the second row during the Raiders' NSW Cup trial at Seiffert Oval two weeks ago.
"We've been working Liva Havili and Ryan Sutton as edge players as well so their utility value is very important to us too," Stuart said.
"When you've got blokes like Liva and Ryan on the bench who can play a number of positions, it's a great asset."
NRL ROUND ONE
Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers at Canberra Stadium, 4.05pm.
Raiders team: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Sebastian Kris, 4. Curtis Scott, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Hudson Young, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joe Tapine. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Ryan Sutton, 16. Sia Soliola, 17. Ryan James. Reserves: 18. Sam Williams, 19. Tom Starling, 20. Emre Guler, 21. Harley Smith-Shields.
Tigers team: 1. Daine Laurie, 2. David Nofoaluma, 3. James Roberts, 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. AJ Kepaoa, 6. Moses Mbye, 7. Luke Brooks, 8. James Tamou (c), 9. Jacob Liddle, 10. Joe Ofahengaue, 11. Luke Garner, 12. Luciano Leilua, 13. Alex Twal. Interchange: 14. Tommy Talau, 15. Thomas Mikaele, 16. Stefano Utoikamanu, 17. Russell Packer. Reserves: 18. Jock Madden, 19. Michael Chee Kam, 20. Tuki Simpkins, 21. Alex Seyfarth.