New players integrating into a system, returning stars hoping to put injury-plagued 2020 campaigns behind them and incoming coaches seeking pre-season vindication of the work they've put their players through.
They are just three of the many things cubs will be looking to glean from this weekend's full slate of trials.
Each of the 16 teams has particular areas of focus, with the scoreboard not being of great importance. Avoiding injuries will be key.
Here are the important factors for each team this weekend.
Tedesco ready to captain Roosters, if called upon
NRL Trials - Week 3
Raiders v Roosters, Saturday 4pm (AEDT) at Seiffert Oval, Queanbeyan
Raiders: All eyes on that right edge with Hudson Young the early favourite to take up John Bateman's channel. A fully fit Curtis Scott also looms on that right edge as he looks to put a miserable 2020 campaign behind him, while star hooker Josh Hodgson (ACL rupture) is also slated for his first game since last July.
Roosters: The 517-day wait for promising young half Sam Walker to play senior footy is over, while fellow schoolboy sensation Joseph Suaalii will ensure plenty of interest in the NSW Cup trial beforehand. A hamstring issue for Luke Keary will keep him out of the side but won't impact his round one availability, with Lachlan Lam to take chief playmaking duties in Queanbeyan.
O'Brien provides insight into training
Storm v Knights, Saturday 5.30pm (AEDT) at Albury Sports Ground
Storm: All eyes will be on a Storm side without Cameron Smith for the first time in 20 seasons. The partnership between Harry Grant and Brandon Smith at hooker will be watched on with interest as both men look to prove their starting worth.
How Storm coach Craig Bellamy uses the pair throughout the year won’t be entirely revealed in a trial.
Not only have the defending champions lost their champion hooker, but they've lost their leader and number one goal kicker. Cameron Munster and Ryan Papenhuyzen will want some extra practice in with the boot before round one.
Knights: Spine cohesion. Resigned to being without Kalyn Ponga and Blake Green in the early rounds, the Knights look settled with a spine but will want to get some continuity in before their season opener against the Bulldogs.
The make-up of the side’s backline is also an area of concern for Adam O’Brien with Edrick Lee (foot) and Hymel Hunt (hamstring) picking up injuries in the past month.
Like their trial opponents, a focus on goal-kicking is also a must with fill-in fullback Tex Hoy the likely option until Ponga returns.
A behind-the-scenes look at the Maori All Stars' haka
Titans v Warriors, Saturday 5.50pm (AEDT) at Oakes Oval, Lismore
Titans: Coming off that strong finish last year, there are almost no changes in key positions. The balance of the pack is a big one; hooker Mitch Rein and the rest of the playmakers needs to get used to how the likes of Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and David Fifita operate.
Justin Holbrook will be reluctant to give his new star forwards too many minutes but any time on field they can share along with the rest of the starting forwards will be invaluable.
Also with fullback AJ Brimson unlikely to play big minutes as he works back from injury, it could give the likes of Phil Sami and Corey Thompson some in-game time to work on being Brimson’s back-up this year.
Warriors: Like their opponents, the Warriors’ main changes to bed down are in their forward pack. Star signing Addin Fonua-Blake and the returning Ben Murdoch-Masila should get decent stints to build their combinations with the rest of the pack and hooker Wayde Egan.
The edge combinations in attack and defence will be of particular interest with Murdoch-Masila likely to slot in there while recruit Bayley Sironen will also be looking for some minutes out wide as they work out how to defend alongside the club’s halves.
Everybody’s heading to Magic Round
Sharks v Bulldogs, Saturday 6pm (AEDT) at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
Sharks: The spine takes most of the focus given the chatter around Matt Moylan's impressive off-season and Connor Tracey training at fullback, having raised a possible switch back to his preferred position with coach John Morris at the start of summer.
How Josh Dugan and Andrew Fifita fare is always one to watch for Sharks fans too, with the latter pushing to get under 118kg this season, 10 kg less than he played at last year.
Bulldogs: The game plan. Trent Barrett won't show all, or even any of his cards, in a February trial, particularly with first-choice hooker Jeremy Marshall-King (foot) and five-eighth Jake Averillo (elbow) both laid low by injuries.
But the influx of recruits and his own status as a key architect of Penrith's offence last year has Canterbury optimistic the bogged down, limited attack of recent times can be left right there.
Kyle Flanagan's adjustment to the Bulldogs set-up in turn takes the focus here. Despite his abrupt exit from the Roosters, he did impress several good judges at times throughout 2021.
Super ball: EISS Super three-year deal means new-look footy
Dragons v Rabbitohs, Saturday 6.30pm (AEDT) at Glen Willow Oval, Mudgee
Dragons: Having got through his first hit out in a year, Jack Bird will be looking for a few more minutes at centre, and it’s a similar story for hooker Andrew McCullough who only met some of his new teammates the day before the previous trial against the Eels.
McCullough is expected to play big minutes at Mudgee and while he has a long history with Ben Hunt and Corey Norman from their Broncos days, getting to know how they operate inside the Dragons system will also take getting used to.
Rabbitohs: There’s an interesting conundrum for Wayne Bennett to solve following the recruitment of lock Jai Arrow from the Titans given Cam Murray is already established in that role.
Does Arrow bump Tom Burgess or Tevita Tatola from starting prop? Jacob Host and Kaeon Koloamatangi – who favoured the edge in his junior days – will each get a chance to impress for the chance to be Jaydn Su’A’s edge partner this year with Su’A not playing and both candidates starting in Mudgee.
Of course, getting some minutes into Latrell Mitchell will also be a priority.
Eels motivated more by 'outside pressure' to perform
Panthers v Eels, Saturday, 7.30pm (AEDT) at Panthers Stadium
Panthers: The right centre spot is one up for grabs with Brent Naden unlikely to be picked and Dean Whare departing to the Super League.
Tyrone May clawed his way into the position towards the end of last season, while Bulldogs-bound playmaker Matt Burton spent time in the backline last week. Whoever fills the role will need to combine with Charlie Staines throughout the year.
How Ivan Cleary also uses his middle forwards following the departures of James Tamou and Zane Tetevano will also be one to watch with the club still searching the player market for more depth in that area.
Eels: Brad Arthur will want to settle on a centre replacement for Michael Jennings and a new-look bench following a turnover of players in the off-season.
Arthur has been a fan of playing four forwards on the interchange in the past but may look to navigate Reed Mahoney’s game time a little bit differently early on in this year's campaign.
Carrigan wants to make club legends proud
Broncos v Cowboys, Saturday 7pm (AEST) at Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe
Broncos: Hopes are high Tesi Niu can nail down the right-centre spot, but he had his defensive issues last week against Wynnum-Manly and this is his last crack before the season starts proper.
Halves Tom Dearden and Brodie Croft are effectively gunning for the same No.7 gig as Anthony Milford pushes to be fit for round one, while boom youngster Jordan Riki appears set to claim starting edge role after impressing for the Maori All Stars.
Corey Oates begins his transition to the back-row having recovered from a broken hand while Tevita Pangai jnr also prepares for a shift into the middle.
Cowboys: Valentine Holmes is slated to start on the wing, just as he has in several internal scrimmages, again against the Broncos as Scott Drinkwater gets a crack at fullback.
Meanwhile, the coach has flagged a "less minutes, more impact" approach for Tongan powerhouse Jason Taumalolo in 2021 – a plan tailor-made for trial footy that we see for the first time at Redcliffe.
And finally, expectations are quietly growing around Coen Hess up north after a couple of underwhelming seasons. Hess has slimmed down since Payten's arrival and been given the simplest of game plans – get one-on-one with the opposition's playmakers.
Ready to play? Join our league of strong and confident kids
Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles, Sunday 5pm (AEST) at Leichhardt Oval
Wests Tigers: A hamstring issue for Moses Mbye is a spanner in the works, though he is still expected to take his place for round one. Daine Laurie will get another run at fullback as youngster Jock Madden lines up in the halves.
A strong showing by either could force Michael Maguire's hand with his playmaking spine for the season opener in a few weeks. Recruits James Tamou and James Roberts are both slated to get their first run in Tigers colours this week as well as Maguire names a near full-strength side on Thursday.
Sea Eagles: The focus was always going to be on the No.1 jumper, now even more so given Tom Trbojevic's sidelining for the start of the season.
Des Hasler has touted Reuben Garrick and Morgan Harper as his leading replacement options, while Jason Saab has also spent time at the back over the off-season.
There's also the small matter of Kieran Foran, who is back at Manly for the first time since 2015 and expected to jump into the halves, but is also coming off a pec rupture last September.