by MATT HARRIS
RUGBY LEAGUE: The immediate playing future of Calliope product Bill Cullen rests on his performance during pre-season training with the Canberra Raiders.
Signed by the Raiders in June after two seasons with the CQ Capras, Cullen came close to an NRL call-up during the second half of the season, but had to be content with a starting spot in affiliate NSW Cup team Mounties.
Mounties' season ended on September 3 when the club was knocked out in the first week of the Intrust Super Premiership finals series, with Cullen briefly returning to Gladstone before heading back to the nation's capital on October 1.
Cullen has settled in to Canberra life smoothly and is living with girlfriend Roche while still finding time to wet a line and indulge in some fishing.
However, Cullen's big catch will be landing a permanent NRL deal after being re-signed on a pre-season train and trial contract.
"That will put me through to the start of March, which is Round One, and from there the club will make the decision if they want to keep me on for the rest of the year,” Cullen said.
"So I've got to dig in while I'm down here, rip in and try to do my best.”
There are still options on the table for Cullen should he be unsuccessful in snaring another NRL contract with the Raiders.
Mounties could come to the table again, but moving back to an Intrust Super Cup side isn't out of the question either.
Failure isn't something in the 22-year-old's mindset as he looks to impress head coach Ricky Stuart.
"I'll address that door when it comes closer, but it's still only December and I've got another three to four months here to prove myself and that's one of my main focusses at the moment to rip and tear here,” he said.
"If it comes to that me and my manager will work something out where I can end up for the rest of the year, whether it be down here or back up in Queensland or wherever it will take me.
"It's entirely up to what options I get given at that point in time, but at the moment my goal is to stay in Canberra.
"It's a great club, all the players here are fantastic, the coaching staff are really knowledgeable and caring about the players, so hopefully I can stay here for a bit longer which would be absolutely fantastic.”
The former North Queensland Cowboys under-20s player said the Raiders' coaching staff had offered him advice, now it's just up to the Calliope Roosters junior to prove his worth.
"I was here for five months last season so they've got a fair idea of what I am as a player,” he said.
"They'll try to look at getting me into better shape, getting used to the plays and the club.
"We've got a fair squad here at the moment and everyone is fighting for positions.
"It's really up to us to try and prove ourselves. Hopefully I can do that.”