Manly recruit Ethan Bullemor is out to claim a starting edge forward spot in Manly's final trial while 2021 breakout star Karl Lawton is just looking for a place in the 17.
With young gun Josh Schuster out of the early rounds with an ankle injury, there is an edge forward spot available and the former Bronco Bullemor has his nose in front after being named to start in a near full-strength side for Friday night's 6pm trial against the Raiders at Central Coast Stadium.
Lawton even conceded as much; speaking to NRL.com he said his goal is just to find a spot in coach Des Hasler's 17 with hopes his utility value could help him land a bench spot.
"That 14 role is definitely something I'll look into and try and fit but whatever happens happens," Lawton said.
"I think if I find myself anywhere in the 17, I just want to fill a spot and if there's an opportunity to play anywhere I'm happy to play it."
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The start to Manly's 2021 season featured four heavy losses; the focus was on the absence of star fullback Tom Trbojevic but with Joel Thompson gone, Curtis Sironen and Haumole Olaka'uatu injured and Andrew Davey going down in the opening minutes of the year, edge forward was just as pressing an issue.
The returning Olaka'uatu and emerging Schuster soon established themselves as the new back-row pairing but mid-season injuries to both forced Lawton into a stint there and it's a chance he took with both hands – one that culminated in an end-of-season contract extension.
"I never really played much edge, I only played a handful of games there before," the former Titans and Warriors hooker admitted.
"Des must have seen that and just before I debuted Schuey got injured in the training so he sort of threw me in there to see how I went.
"He must have been happy because he kept me in there for a little bit. I loved it, it was such a good position to be in. It's such a refreshing role for me, playing on the edge compared to hooker, it helps you grow and as a player I just want to grow.
"There was a little bit (I had to learn), it's a different role from playing hooker to back row, defensively, making reads, looking after my half and making sure he doesn't get sore shoulders.
"You do a fair bit of tackling and a fair bit of running which is a cool different role for me. I just love change really, change is good, I reckon that really suits."
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Asked about his chances of nailing that starting spot for round one though, he immediately defers to new recruit Bullemor.
"You've got Bully here as well who's a cracker back-rower and a big body so whatever Des thinks is the right move will be and I'm just happy to be in the 17 anywhere," Lawton added.
For his part, Bullemor is ambitious about his goals for 2022, saying that vacant edge spot for round one is a definite personal goal.
"If I can get myself right and my training and my games through the trials, hopefully that's something I can shoot for," Bullemor told NRL.com.
"Trials are always important, everyone always wants to be going into round one feeling that they're ready and prepared.
"For me personally I'm someone that puts a lot of emphasis on my preparation so to have a good performance this weekend and hopefully nail down the things I want to have nailed down coming into round one would give me a lot of confidence.
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"What Des speaks about with us is, we want to go out there to do everything right. Do all the little things right, effort areas, defence and the result will either come but with trials positions can change and so forth and it can get a little bit messy or lopsided but just focus on getting those performances right so round one you feel ready to go."
While Bullemor has played both edge and middle in the past, Manly's immediate needs are more pressing on an edge and Bullemor did not expect to spend time in the middle against the Raiders.
"I'm not sure I'll do much time in the middle to be honest at the moment," he said.
"Whichever position I end up in I just want to fine tune all the work we've been doing in pre-season and put it into practice and have a strong performance. Hopefully set myself up well to try and get into round one.
"I want to be in the team every week, I want to play NRL so that's the primary goal then within that we want to win games as a team and that's the main goal and I can help that by having a good individual performance, doing my job within our structure so for me it's about that."