Jayden Sullivan is prepared to bide his time in St George Illawarra's halves queue and continue soaking up knowledge from his senior teammates.
The 19-year-old, who made his NRL debut in round 20 last year, provided another glimpse of the future with a standout showing in Friday night's 36-28 trial loss to Cronulla at PointsBet Stadium.
The match was mostly made up of emerging players, with only those who played 12 or fewer first-grade games in 2020 able to feature, but Sullivan scored a try, set up another, kicked and tackled strongly, although he was also put on report for a dangerous tackle.
It gave coach Anthony Griffin – who praised the efforts of Sullivan and five-eighth Junior Amone and said "they've put themselves in the picture" – something to ponder ahead of round one.
Ben Hunt is almost certain to start at halfback, but pivot Corey Norman is yet to learn the outcome of an NRL Integrity Unit investigation into an off-field incident. Adam Clune, who wore the No.7 jersey capably in 15 matches last season, is also in the mix.
"At the moment, I'm just enjoying being a sponge. I love to learn," Sullivan said on Friday evening.
Match Highlights: Sharks v Dragons
"To learn off Clune, Hunty and Norman – they're the GOATs [greatest of all time] to me, I look up to them. I love seeing everyone in my team do well, and if they can win for the team then I'm happy.
"Clune lives two doors up from me, so we carpool to training every day and have some good banter," he added. "And obviously, I'm pretty close with Normy and Hunty.
"I still feel like I've got a lot to learn. I've only played one [NRL] game, you can't really judge it off that one game.
"I'm sure if I was playing first-grade week in, week out, teams would be doing video on me and it would make it much harder as a player."
Asked about the possibility of filling a bench utility role, Sullivan said he'd "play front row if [Griffin] would let me."
While his skill caught the eye against the Sharks, he was also solid and enthusiastic without the ball.
"Hook [Griffin] is a really good coach, and at the start of pre-season he said 'obviously your attack's going to come, but if you work hard on your defence, you can be a much better player'," he said.
"I want to pride myself on my defence. I'm not the biggest body, but I always get my body in front and hopefully make my tackles."
St George Illawarra scored the opening two tries on Friday, with Sullivan delivering a lovely inside ball for the first to Tyrell Sloane.
It was no coincidence that Sullivan combined so well with the fullback and Amone – they've been friends since childhood.
"Junior and Tyrell, I've played all my junior footy with them, went to [Illawarra Sports High] school with them," he said. "I think under-6s was my first game with them. To play a first-grade trial with them and see them do good, it really puts a smile on my face."
Sign up for a free NRL Account to access this video and other exclusive content.
Not sure? Learn more about an NRL Account.
But the happy occasion was tempered with the club's devastation that inspirational leader Cameron McInnes suffered a season-ending ACL injury during training on the morning of the trial.
With McInnes contracted to Cronulla for 2022, his time in the Red V has come to an abrupt end.
"Cam's definitely one of the reasons why I love the club so much. My first year in grade, Cam used to pick me up because I was only 17 and I didn't have a licence," Sullivan said.
"He used to drive me to training every day even though he didn't have to be there until 9 o'clock and I started at 6 in the morning.
"To see him go down, it really hurts me as a person because I know how hard he works as a captain, as a good club man. I can't speak any higher of him, I love the bloke to death."