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Averillo banking on early return with no fallback for fringe first-graders

Canterbury rookie Jake Averillo is banking on the NRL to return on May 28 or he could be forced to follow several other players and staff who have taken up temporary jobs to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Averillo, the 19-year-old centre who impressed on debut for the Bulldogs last month, had extended his contract at the club until the end of the 2021 season to avoid being one of many young players trying to securing new deals.

The cancellation of NSW's Jersey Flegg and Canterbury Cup competitions leaves players like Averillo determined to remain in first grade or face the prospect of no match experience each week.

Fresh off his NRL debut against the Cowboys in round two, the local product is concerned his development will be put on hold if he is not in the top squad with no second-tier competitions to fall back on.

"It can be a crucial year, I had a big year in 2019 and got put into the top squad so it will definitely affect a few players' careers," Averillo told NRL.com.

Bulldogs rookie Jake Averillo with father Mick, mother Bev and girlfriend Charli.
Bulldogs rookie Jake Averillo with father Mick, mother Bev and girlfriend Charli. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"If it's your last year of under 20s that's it, you either get put up to Canterbury Cup or they get rid of you.

"Most of the boys my age have been told they're not playing for the rest of the year. They've all got jobs and play footy part-time so I feel fortunate. 

"I'm not there yet, since this date has been thrown out so I've been training, but if it gets postponed any longer I'll look for some work."

Averillo has a personal trainer's certificate to his name but that offers little reprieve with fitness restrictions in place.

He's also worked as a teacher's aide but many of the schools where he's fulfilled that role are no longer in operation.

"There's not a whole lot you can be doing besides labouring," he said.

"I've never been on the tools, I haven't got much experience there but have done a few odd jobs.

"There's a bit of hope there now with the date and it keeps us on our toes if it actually does happen so I'm taking it day by day."

It will be a year to remember for Averillo, who created history of his own against the Cowboys when he was the only player to make his NRL debut in front of no spectators before the season's shut down.

His father Mick, mother Bev and girlfriend Charli were the only fans allowed entry into ANZ Stadium to watch the occasion.

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"I was lucky I got it in to be honest now looking back on it, I was disappointed not to get another crack but I'll still take it … it's still a debut," he said.

"I think I'm more eager now I've got a taste there. I just want to play in as many games as I can and get a spot in the 17 for the rest of the year, it's a basic goal for me.

"I like my hands on the ball but am pretty versatile. I started the pre-season trials in the outside backs so can play wherever which helps."