Raiders rookies make the grade Doug MacDougall Tuesday, 7 March 2006 Canberra Raiders coach Matt Elliott will today name three debutants in his team to play Manly in Saturday's NRL season-opener at Brookvale Oval. All three players - prop Willie Raston, winger Adrian Purtell, both 21, and second-rower Ben Jones, 24 - will start the game. Electrifying pivot and fellow youngster William Zillman was overlooked for a spot on the bench in favour of Todd Carney, while the side's forward pack will be boosted by the return of prop Josh Miller. Miller has made a speedy recovery from reconstructive shoulder surgery in October last year. At the time team doctors believed it would take at least six months for him to recover. Elliott told his players the make-up of the team on Friday morning and will officially announce the team today. The selection of the rookies follows Elliott's preseason comments that he would select players on their trial form rather than their reputations. An ecstatic Purtell, who came to Canberra after finishing his year 12 studies in 2002, could barely hide his excitement yesterday at the prospect of making his first-grade debut. The Albury export first impressed Elliott during the Raiders' 28-16 win against the Warriors three weeks ago in New Zealand, but he was selected in the team only after rookie centre Brad Cross was unable to travel with the team across the Tasman because he didn't have a passport. Since then Purtell's form has continued to improve. A solid effort in the team's 28-20 loss to Brisbane in Port Macquarie two weeks ago earned him a possible match-up against former Raiders winger Michael Robertson on Saturday night. "I'm over the moon, I've been here for four years now so it's been worth it," Purtell said. "I've been training really well, my skills and fitness are all going well and I got a chance in a couple of the trials, and I went all right. "I'm trying not to think about it too much so I don't get too nervous, but a Saturday night game up there, it should be good." Purtell said he and fellow debutant Raston received the good news at training on Friday morning. "We were trying to keep calm when we got told at training. Me and Willie both moved here the same year so we're pretty good mates," Purtell said. "I sort of have a meeting with [Elliott] every week just to see what kind of things he wants me to work on and he just said to keep going the way I was going. "I'm just going to take one game at a time but hopefully I'll get a couple of starts [this season]." Elliott, who will coach Penrith from 2007, indicated the time had come for Canberra's younger players to show their potential at NRL level. "We keep talking about all the good young players we've got here - there's no use having all our good young players in Premier League, we want our good young players in first grade," Elliott said. The coach was unconcerned at the lack of experience his side would take into Saturday's match, but he admitted his younger players would need to control their nerves. "I'd be worried if they were feeling nervous on Monday," Elliott said. "I think that's fairly natural as you get closer to the game though, and if you haven't played at first-grade level there'd be some nerves based on being excited about playing." "I'm sure there will be a lot of nerves around the fact it's the first game of the season as well." Raiders: Clinton Schifcofske (capt), Adrian Purtell, Phil Graham, David Howell, Adam Mogg, Jason Smith, Lincoln Withers, Willie Raston, Simon Woolford, Troy Thompson, Jason Croker, Ben Jones, Alan Tongue Bench: Todd Carney, Terry Martin, Tom Learoyd-Larhs, Josh Miller.