The major change in Ryan James
His coach, teammates and commentators lauded his 80-minute effort last week against the Dragons but Titans forward Ryan James claims a split-second lapse proves that he is far from the finished product.
Prozone Stats credited James with 20 runs for 171 metres and an extraordinary 61 tackles against St George Illawarra but heading into Saturday's clash with the Bulldogs James was still disappointed in the half-second where he wasn't involved.
With Gareth Widdop sliding a grubber kick in behind the Titans' defensive line, James turned to watch his fullback gobble it up, only to see Jack de Belin slip past and collect the ricochet off the upright and score under the posts.
"People say that I might have had my best game last week but that definitely wasn't my best game," James told NRL.com.
"I let a major try through where de Belin got that kick off the posts. I could have turned and chased and got that ball but I was a bit selfish and had a rest for half a second and he ran past me.
"You can make 40 odd tackles or you can let that through and we ended up losing by five."
The flowing locks that were once his trademark are now gone for good and after becoming a father prior to the start of his seventh season in the NRL, the 24-year-old is feeling a greater sense of responsibility both on and off the field.
He has addressed the disciplinary issues that made him the most penalised player in the competition last season but rather than his clean-cut hairdo James credits the work of another NRL pre-season with his improved relationship with match officials.
"I think I gave away two [penalties] on the weekend and one I thought was a bit harsh and the other on Dugan, I couldn't do much about that," James said of a 'crusher tackle' penalty that saw no subsequent action from the match review committee.
"I'm just trying to minimise that because penalties end up giving teams possession and if I give away two a game that's an extra 12 tackles my team has to do and it's a selfish act.
"I still hear my name a lot on the field so I just try to listen to the refs a lot more. I'm a little bit fitter this year and I can actually process what they're saying to me whereas last year and the year before I've probably been dragging a bit, looking at them but not actually hearing what they say."
In the final year of a Bachelor of Business (Sports Management), James is graduating into a leader amongst his teammates too.
He has a presence in games now that suggests he is a man who can be followed rather than the hot-head who often rode the line between aggression and ill-discipline.
James and his high school sweetheart Ana welcomed Carter James into the world on October 30 last year and said it has provided a new focus to his football.
"Everything I do is to try and make my family more comfortable," James said. "I guess I do have more of a responsibility now to worry about Ana and Carter's health and things like injuries, I don't want to bring on to them. I just see it as being a father and looking after your family as best you can.
"It definitely grounds you. I'm always looking forward to getting home and seeing the kid smile and the wife happy but when I'm at training I'm doing my job and working on footy.
"As soon as I get in the car I turn off and get home and it gives you something else to think about."