Redcliffe captain Cameron Cullen will run out at ANZ Stadium on Sunday against Canterbury with the dual goals of winning the Intrust Super national championship and forcing his way back into the NRL.
The 25-year-old halfback got a taste of the NRL with Manly and the Gold Coast and had previously been in the Broncos and Cowboys systems. Cullen, who led his Redcliffe Dolphins side to a 36-22 Intrust Super Cup grand final win over East Tigers last week, is now far more than just a dangerous runner of the football in the No.7 jersey.
At the end of 2017 he was forced out of Manly a year early due to salary cap constraints but some advice from Trent Barrett about where he needed to improve proved invaluable.
"When I left the club I wasn't bitter at Trent. I actually got on with him really well and he told me a few things that I needed to work on in my game in terms of game management," Cullen told NRL.com.
"I was always a good runner of the football but in terms of being a halfback in the NRL I told [Redcliffe coach] Adam Mogg that I wanted to direct and control our side and be a leader. As it turned out our captain was injured and I got the captaincy role from round one, but the role I have played this year on the field is a lot different to what I've had in the past.
"I'm not just eyes up and running the ball whenever I want. I've taken on that role of a general as a halfback which was the last thing for me to work on to get back in the NRL, to direct the boys around the park and finish off games."
Cullen showcased those skills in the Intrust Super Cup grand final where he was a calming influence with his kicking and passing game and picked his moments to inject himself.
"I'd love to get back in the NRL and I am only 25, which is young for a halfback," he said.
"I've been around Australia with my family chasing that goal and if I got a genuine opportunity from a coach that sees a lot of potential in me then I'd love to take it."
To beat Canterbury would complete a stellar season for the club and personally for Cullen, who said the Dolphins would not be lacking incentive.
"We set a few goals at the start of the year and that was one of them, to go the whole way, so we've got one more to tick off," he said.
"For me as captain it is important to display our young players as good as we can in front of all the eyes that are watching and give them a chance to take that next step into the NRL.
"We also want to showcase the Queensland Cup and prove our competition is stronger than theirs."
Cullen has no doubt that fullback Trai Fuller has the ability and the toughness to make it in an NRL system. Likened to Ben Barba in style, Fuller was on fire in a two-try display in the win over Easts where his speed and ability to break tackles came to the fore.
Cullen was a member of the 2016 Burleigh side that won the Intrust Super Cup but was then walloped 54-12 by the Illawarra Cutters in the interstate showdown, but has learned plenty from that experience.
"It is very hard to win a competition, and have all the emotions of riding such a high, and then to get up mentally the next week," he said.
"I've had that experience now so I can teach our younger players and get them mentally and physically in the best shape."