South Sydney's Angus Crichton says a slight change in the role he was required to play for the team was behind his reduced run metres and busts over the opening nine rounds of the 2018 Telstra Premiership.
The Temora-born back-rower racked up big numbers in the emphatic win over the table-topping Dragons on Sunday afternoon, racking up a season-high 194 metres pus six busts - his most since round one - in what was his best performance of the year.
He has surged back into NSW Blues selection contention for the opening match of the Holden State of Origin series in Melbourne on June 6.
Crichton was a revelation in his breakout 2017 season from the time he was moved to the starting second-row role in round six.
From that point on, according to NRL.com Stats, he averaged 131 metres and a whopping 5.6 busts per game with nine line breaks (0.53 per game), seven tries (0.41) and 23 offloads (1.36).
In the first nine rounds of 2018, he did plenty of tough stuff in the middle but was not winding up on the edge like he had been. His average metres dropped slightly to 120 per game and his busts were well down with 27 in nine matches. In this period he produced just one line break and one try (0.11 per game).
At the same time, his defensive workload jumped from 32 tackles a game last year to 36 this year.
Images of Round 10
"So far this season I've taken a lot of tough carries out of our end and doing a lot of work that kind of a lot of the fans and the stats don't really see but the players see that," Crichton said after his star turn against the Dragons.
"[On Sunday] it kind of shifted a little bit, I got a bit of open pasture and got to pin the ears back a few times which is always good fun. It was good to get a bit of open pasture and that's what I enjoy. It only took me 10 rounds!"
Asked to elaborate on how his role had changed this year, Crichton noted that with halfback Adam Reynolds missing from the right side attack from rounds two to four and skipper Greg Inglis returning at left centre, a lot more of the team's attack had been directed to the left side of the field compared to last year.
"A lot of our ball was going to the left for [Inglis] and I was laying the platform a fair bit and doing a lot of work out of our own end," Crichton added.
"I guess [Sunday] was a really good all-round performance and the workload was shared and that showed in the result."