Wests Tigers rookie Reece Hoffman has been handed his NRL debut against a Rabbitohs outfit he almost joined as he and veteran Benji Marshall reinforce Michael Maguire's side.
Marshall will make his first appearance in a month as a bench utility after Sam McIntyre (concussion) was ruled out, while Hoffman comes onto the wing for Tommy Talau (hamstring).
With Talau joining Joey Leilua (suspended) and Robert Jennings (hamstring) on the sidelines, 19-year-old Hoffman will line up opposite fellow Queenslander Dane Gagai on Friday night.
Hoffman was signed to the Tigers on a three-year development deal last year, but not before seriously weighing up an offer from South Sydney.
A meeting with Maguire after taking in a Tigers training session at Concord Oval last year ended up swaying the Maroons under 18s Origin star, with his plumping for the joint-venture now paying off with an earlier than expected first grade debut.
Marshall meanwhile is back for his first NRL outing since round four, when Maguire swung the axe on the club icon following an underwhelming loss to the Gold Coast.
Farah backs Benji to bring points off the bench
Marshall's demotion prompted concerns over his future at the club, and his management to discreetly shop him to rival outfits for the rest of 2020.
Both Marshall and Maguire have denied his demotion would force him out of Concord, with the Tigers coach lauding the veteran's attitude throughout his month on the sidelines.
"Benji will back off the bench. He's back ready to go," Maguire said on Thursday.
"He's been working really hard at all the things we've spoken about and I'm looking forward to having him back."
Brooks: Grant helping running game
Fellow veteran Chris Lawrence is also back on the bench for the first time since he was dropped after round five.
How Marshall is deployed on Friday night against the Rabbitohs remains a fluid prospect, according to Maguire.
Hooker Harry Grant has been a revelation since arriving at the club and hasn't missed a minute of football in the past month.
Maguire said he was reluctant to move Josh Reynolds to dummy-half to accommodate Marshall in the halves as a result, with the Kiwi star more likely to replace either Reynolds or Luke Brooks in the halves.
"At the moment I'll play it depending on how they're performing," Maguire said.
"Benji might get some time – he might get a long time, he might get a little time, it just depends on how the game's being played."
Marshall occupied a bench role during his 2017 stint at Brisbane under Bennett, a season credited with revitalising his career.
Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers - Round 9