Hard-hitting St George Illawarra Dragons back-rower Tariq Sims believes he's paid his dues as a bench impact weapon and is now ready to reclaim the starting jersey vacated by the Manly-bound Joel Thompson.
The former Cowboys and Knights forward also reckons he's putting up the best numbers of his career in the gym and gotten on top of the rehab required for his twice-broken left leg.
Sims started four matches at the end of 2017 played a full 80 minutes in three of those, having started just three of 20 games in 2017 (and one of eight in 2016) prior to that.
"Last year was one of those years where my role in the team was to come off the bench which was never that easy too because I've played so many games starting," Sims told NRL.com.
"That's what was needed. 'Mary' (coach Paul McGregor) asked me, put it to me as a challenge and I like to think I accepted that challenge and excelled in it.
"At the back end of the year I started a few games which was great and a bit of an extra reward but on the back of this pre-season [I'll be] starting and I'm looking forward to getting back into the back row."
Strength-wise, conditioning-wise this is probably the best I've gone into a season since I was a 20-year-old...Tariq Sims
While left edge (in place of Thompson and alongside five-eighth Gareth Widdop) shapes as Sims' spot to start the season he stressed he was just as comfortable on the right if needed should Tyson Frizell be unavailable or have to move to the middle of the field and is also able to play middle himself.
"I've played over 100 first grade games at back row so I'm very comfortable there, that's where I cut my teeth and it's the position that I knew," Sims continued.
"The only reason I played in the middle was Mary thought it would be a good change-up for me to go in the middle and he challenged me to go in there. I accepted that challenge and I like to think I did my best.
"If for some reason Friz is in the middle or Friz is injured or out or on rep duty or what have you, if I'm asked to go over to the right side it's not foreign to me. I'm gearing up for a big year, I've put a lot of expectations on myself, it's a pre-season where statistically-wise I've excelled in every area in training so I'm pretty excited for the year to start."
Asked to elaborate on those areas, Sims said: "Beep test, conditioning, times, weights, lifts. Everything. Strength-wise, conditioning-wise this is probably the best I've gone into a season since I was a 20-year-old fresh out of Brisbane (where he played in the under-20s).
"I still don't feel like I've reached that limit there with my body. We're still rehabbing with my leg, that's something I know I'm going to have to deal with for the rest of my career. Once you get your head around that the sky's the limit.
"There's no issues, I'm just saying before training I have to go out and warm up and make sure everything in my ankle and leg are activated through the warm up before I go out and train because I feel personally if I don't do that then I won't be able to get the best out of my training sessions."
Sims has been named in the trial squad to face Hull FC on Saturday night and is expected to start in what will be his first on-field chance to really stake a claim to the role.
Previewing the match, McGregor said all 24 names on the trial team sheet would be used and most of the big names could expect a solid stint of 30 minutes or more.
McGregor nominated left-side back row as a spot that had not yet been settled, with the trials to present the candidates an opportunity.
"Joel Thompson's not here so it's opened that left back row position," McGregor said on Friday.
"Tariq and Luce (Luciano Leilua) and [Jacob] Host are in the running for that. Tariq's a senior player and the other two guys have had some experience in first grade, they've all had good pre-seasons."
Taking on Tariq