The Canberra Raiders are set to hand local junior Harley Smith-Shields an extension before a ball is kicked this season.
It's an extremely different season-eve for Smith-Shields who tore his ACL a year ago today, ruling him out for the entire 2022 season shortly after emerging as a Round 1 bolter, with Semi Valemei and James Schiller both eventually starting the game.
Off contract at the end of this season, you could forgive Harley for stressing over a contract year coming off a long-term injury, however it appears the club are set to reward the 23 year-old's resilience before the season opener.
Adept on both the wing and in the centres, Smith-Shields is still very much in the race for a Round 1 spot, though his absence last season allowed Matt Timoko and Sebastian Kris to announce themselves as the club's long-term three-quarter line.
Jarrod Croker also remains at the club and sits just eight games shy of the 300 club, having appeared in just a singular NRL game last season.
While the majority of Ricky Stuart's selection headaches hail from his forward pack, the coach says he'll keep an eye on Smith-Shields as he remains well within the race.
"He's another player there fighting for a spot," he said.
"He's had a really, really good off-season. He came back and started from day one with having that full season to overcome his ACL.
"We've given him time to get it right and he's done everything he has to do in rehabilitation and he's come back from day one, and he's had a really good off-season for us.
This electric run from Harley Smith-Shields for Manase Kaho to score comes in at number one in our Raiders #JFlegg top five tries countdown ⚡️☝️
Full for coverage go to https://t.co/GFySu9oUik 🎥 pic.twitter.com/p5NC2Lx02A
— NSW Rugby League (@NSWRL) May 28, 2020
"He's a talented player and was unlucky he did his ACL in the pre-season last year.
"He's done a good job - even just mentally overcoming the fact he had to miss a full season. But he's a young boy and he's got a lot in front of him."
Harley is likely to line up in both trial matches for Canberra against Canterbury and the Wests Tigers respectively, especially having not featured in the NRL since Round 25, 2021.