Rising star Nick Cotric says a State of Origin debut would be "the opportunity of a lifetime" and he will be ready to "take it with both hands" should Brad Fittler come calling.
Cotric has been on NSW Blues coach Fittler's radar for months after the rugby league great named the emerging star as a potential bolter last year.
An impressive start to the season has cemented the Canberra Raiders winger in the mix for the State of Origin series opener at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on June 6.
But the 19-year-old sensation is refusing to let the hype get to him leading into the Green Machine's clash with the Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
"Ill definitely take it with both hands, the opportunity of a lifetime," Cotric said.
"But Im just focusing each week on our weekend games and doing the best I can for the club.
"Its a good feeling I guess, but I dont really pay attention to that. Ive just got to keep my head. Im still young and and Ive got a lot of improvement to do, so I just keep improving each week and just get better.
"[Jordan Rapana] has been teaching me little moves and that, [Jack Wighton] and everyone have been helping me out heaps, so its good.
"I havent really spoken to [Fittler], Ive just been focusing each week on doing my best for the Raiders and thats it.
"I dont really focus on [Origin speculation], I just focus on my footy each week. Ill just see what happens."
Cotric has represented NSW at under 16 and under 18 level, the latter coming under the guidance of Fittler in 2016.
Cotric has played just 33 NRL games but Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin chimed in to tell Fittler "Nick is your man" as the teenage star's stellar rise in the top grade continues.
"If Freddy wants a big body in yardage, and a guy that can finish in the smallest amount of space, Nick is your man," Austin said.
Blues advisor Greg Alexander says Cotric is on the radar but it might take something special for him to unseat the favourite for the left wing position in Melbourne Storm flyer Josh Addo-Carr.
Cotric was a shining light in a disappointing season for the club last year, but now he says the Raiders are "putting the pieces of the puzzle together" as they hunt for a return to the finals.
The Raiders have won four of their past five games and they could give themselves a shot at breaking into the top eight with a win over the eighth-placed Sharks.
It seemed unthinkable following four straight losses to start the season but Cotric says the Raiders are finding their groove off the back of a firing forward pack.
"Theres still a lot of improvement [to go], but everyone has just been working hard at training and were putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Weve still got improvement to go all around," Cotric said.
"Thats what weve been focusing on a lot at training, our defence. The boys went well in the middle and the backs were sticking on tackles. Weve still got a lot of improvement to do but I think we went pretty good.
"I think the forwards have got more tries than us backs here these days, but thats a good sign. The forwards have been working hard so its good.
"Its unreal, its a lot easier job for us backs when the forwards are pushing hard. Theyre a big impact for the team, the forwards, for everyone on the team."
NRL ROUND 10
Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Cronulla Sharks at Canberra Stadium, 4.10pm. Tickets from Ticketek.
Raiders: 1. Jack Wighton, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Joseph Leilua, 5. Jordan Rapana, 6. Blake Austin, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Iosia Soliola, 9. Siliva Havili, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Joseph Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Josh Papalii. Interchange from: 14. Ata Hingano, 15. Luke Bateman, 16. Charlie Gubb, 17. Dunamis Lui, 18. Liam Knight, 19. Michael Oldfield, 20. Craig Garvey, 21. Jack Murchie.
Sharks: 1. Valentine Holmes, 2. Sosaia Feki, 3. Jesse Ramien, 4. Ricky Leutele, 5. Edrick Lee, 6. Matt Moylan, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Jayden Brailey, 10. Matt Prior, 11. Kurt Capewell, 12. Jayson Bukuya, 13. Paul Gallen (c). Interchange from: 14. Joseph Paulo, 15. James Segeyaro, 16. Avagalu Seumanufagai, 17. Jack Williams, 18. Kurt Dillion, 19. Braden Uele, 20. Briton Nikora, 21. Kyle Flanagan.
Caden Helmers is a sports reporter for The Canberra Times
David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.
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