Sharks centre-turned fullback Gerard Beale says he isn't focused on reclaiming the Cronulla No.1 jersey despite being arguably his team's best player in the two games he's played there this year.
With 2016 grand final-winning custodian Ben Barba having left the club and expected replacement Valentine Holmes picking up a hamstring strain in the trials, Beale – an occasional fullback for the Broncos and Dragons earlier in his career – was asked to step in and did so with aplomb.
He was a standout in a badly beaten side against Wigan in February and was one of the Sharks' best in a narrow Round 1 loss to Brisbane, but a hamstring strain of his own picked up at training meant he sat out the commanding Round 2 win in Canberra, with Jack Bird starring at the back.
Now Beale says he is just trying to get back on the park as soon as possible, welcoming coach Shane Flanagan's raft of selection choices.
"I was obviously happy to fill in at fullback and take that challenge on," Beale told NRL.com.
"It was frustrating last week hurting my hammy at training. Injuries are always frustrating whether they're long or small but I'm trying my best to get back on the field as soon as I can, that's all can really control so that's what I'm focusing on.
"It was only a minor strain, enough to keep me out last week. [I'll be back] if not this week maybe next week. Hamstrings are one of those injuries, you don't want to push it because you've seen what players have been through. It's only a minor injury which is good but just making sure I take care of it."
Beale was unwilling to give himself any praise for his efforts in matches his team had lost but enjoyed his stint at the back, which saw him set up his team's only try against Wigan and score one of his own against Brisbane.
"I actually really enjoyed it. It's hard to enjoy it as much when the goal is to win the game and we lost the World Club [Challenge] and didn't perform to where we wanted to. It was frustrating, it was bittersweet but that's footy," he said.
He has not yet any looked further ahead than getting back on the park and wouldn't speculate about whether his immediate future lay at fullback, centre, wing or elsewhere, preferring to leave those decisions to coach Shane Flanagan.
"I haven't really looked too far ahead. If I'm thinking 'where am I going to play' I'm sure Flanno's head's falling off thinking about where to put players!" he laughed.
"It's a good position to be in as a club, having that depth. We had that last year and it seemed to work quite well. All I want to focus on is getting right and making sure I'm 100 per cent fit and making sure I'm playing a role."
Sharks halfback Chad Townsend had no hesitation in declaring Beale one of the team's strongest performers both against Wigan and Brisbane and added he had enjoyed combining with the Kiwi international in a new-look spine to start the season.
"Playing with Val and Bealey and Birdy out the back, I've trained a fair bit with all three of them out the back and they've subbed in and subbed out," Townsend said.
"Having Val and Birdy on my outside all last year, I'm pretty comfortable with those boys and I know how they like the footy and how they play.
"It's great for us to have those selection issues and for Flanno to have a number of options, we want that because it brings out the best in players. I've got no doubt when it's time for Flanno to make a decision he'll make the right one and whoever gets picked will do the job."