Bulldogs bench forward Adam Elliott started the year with the goal of not being a forgotten man on the bench – now he has been thrust into a starting role in the absence of enforcer Dave Klemmer for the crunch Good Friday clash against Souths.
The affable Bega product has earned his first-ever run on start after a series of spirited efforts off the bench to start 2017.
Back in Round 1 Elliott told NRL.com he was just aiming to avoid being someone who comes on for 20 minutes with no-one really noticing he'd been out there.
A week later he scored his maiden NRL try; fast forward to Round 7 and an ankle injury to lock David Klemmer has resulted in Elliott shifting to the starting pack for the highly-anticipated Good Friday clash.
"I think that's part of the game, Klemmer probably first got his chance to play a few more minutes when there was an injury in the pack," Elliott said.
"Obviously he's going to be a massive loss for us but it does mean there's a bit more onus on guys like me and Danny [Fualalo] to step up and might be required to play an extra five or 10 minute stint and I think we're both looking forward to that and hopefully make an impact."
Asked to reflect on his Round 1 goal of not being the forgotten man on the bench, Elliott added: "I'm setting goals each week. There's always going to be room for improvement and I want to keep getting better each week.
"I think so far I've been able to play a pretty valuable role for the side coming off the bench and one of my goals was to not come on and 20 minutes goes by and no-one notices you've been out there.
"I really want to get out there and inspire the boys left and right of me and that's all part of keeping my spot in this team, I need to keep coming out and doing that each week."
While Elliott is hardly a like-for-like replacement for the towering Klemmer, he isn't dissimilar in style to fellow country-boy back-rower Josh Jackson, who is someone Elliott admits he regards with great admiration.
"Someone I really look up to is Josh Jackson; obviously he goes out there and starts and brings everything he can each week, he's full of energy and I just try and replicate that coming off the bench and try and be like he is for that first 10 or 15 minutes, try and be that later in the game," Elliott said.
This will be Elliott's second such fixture after coming off the bench in the corresponding game last year.
"I was very impressed by the crowd last year," Elliott said.
"It was great and at a good time too, four o'clock in the arvo on a public holiday so there's always families supporting both sides out there. It's always a big crowd and a great day to look forward to.
"[The Rabbitohs] have been playing great as well so we can't rest on our laurels and take these guys lightly because they're a great side and they do have a very good pack."
Despite growing up on the far south NSW coast a long way from Belmore, Elliott has been blue and white as long as he can remember and hopes to stay that way.
"I love this club – I've gone for the Bulldogs my whole life," he said.
"I can't remember how old I was when I watched my first game but I was supporting the Bulldogs and my old man had a jersey in the cupboard. I used to wear it all the time. I've still got it at home now. I love the club, I've been signed with them since I was 14 and I'd love to stay here."
Jackson – who will partner Elliott in the back row on Friday – backed all the club's depth forwards to help fill Klemmer's shoes against Souths.
"Klemmer's out, he'll be out for a good two or three weeks as well. He's a disappointing loss, he's been awesome for us. We've got a lot of depth there and whoever steps in I'm sure will do a good job," Jackson said.
"Particularly those two guys [Elliott and Fualalo], they've both got the capabilities of playing bigger minutes. They have in reserve grade over the years punched out really big minutes so I don't think it will be a problem for them."