Parramatta forward Kenny Edwards was something of a forgotten man heading into 2016 after sitting out the entire 2015 season with injury but after using the time to work on his strength, the benefits are starting to show in the gym and more importantly on the field.
The powerful 26-year-old New Zealand native is just 21 games into his NRL career due partly to a chequered past on the disciplinary front that saw him cut loose from a couple of clubs as well as a ruptured ACL at the 2015 Auckland Nines that put him out for the whole season.
Edwards was arguably the best forward on the field in the 20-16 win over North Queensland on Saturday night at Pirtek Stadium.
Edwards scored a crucial try on the stroke of half-time to go with 98 metres from 14 charges and a match-high seven tackle breaks and was a constant handful for Cowboys defenders.
"With the year off last year I could work on a lot of strength work and now I'm pushing numbers I've never had before," Edwards told NRL.com.
"I've got a couple of records in the club now so I was lucky enough I could put that work in and come back a bit stronger."
Edwards said he used his time off to work with the club's trainers and the records he referred to included strength and bench press numbers.
Edwards looks to be on the way to forming a dangerous combination on the Eels' right edge with new recruit Kieran Foran – who delivered him the pass for his try – and he said the captain's skill and calm demeanour makes his job easy.
"We work hard as a team and I just play off Foz, hit those lines off Foz – it's easy running off him," Edwards said.
It may just be Round 2 but the win over the Cowboys was important to ensure the club didn't start to lose touch with the top sides after a nightmare opening fortnight against both of the 2015 grand finalists, having lost 17-4 to the Broncos a week earlier.
"It was a tough draw, Broncos and Cowboys but we wouldn't have it any other way," Edwards said.
"To test our side, to see how far we've come in the off-season, we wouldn't have had it any other way. Missing 'Normy' (Corey Norman) and Foz last week wasn't ideal but we've got to get on with it.
"We've been working hard the whole pre-season, we had all the confidence in the world coming into today, we had a massive training yesterday for the captain's run and we were confident coming in but obviously confidence doesn't win you the game so we had to work hard and I think our defence was on tonight."
The forward pack as a unit earned the praise of new skipper Foran after the win.
"I thought our forward pack was brilliant," Foran said.
"They really worked hard. They've had a tremendous off-season. They've put in the hard work and I thought they really turned up for one another and got us on the front foot."