The mid-season departure of Moses Mbye helped trigger a transformation in Bulldogs centre Kerrod Holland from fringe first-grader to one of the form attacking centres of the NRL and, heading into 2019, Holland is hoping to pick up where he left off.
After half a season as a bench utility, the departure of Mbye and shift of Will Hopoate to fullback handed Holland a chance he grabbed with both hands, racking up six line breaks, six line break assists, five tries, three try assists, 30 busts and 22 offloads in just 10 starts at centre.
He averaged 100 metres per game after being promoted to the starting side by coach Dean Pay and his per-game line break involvement rate of 1.20 was the best of any centre.
The early stages of Holland's mid-season promotion didn't start promisingly; the centre was forthright in his criticism of his own form after a shock loss to Canberra at Belmore in round 17, in which he had a tough night against opposite number Jarrod Croker and the team conceded three late tries to lose from a seemingly unassailable position.
To his credit, he used that disappointment to turn things around and now believes that forgettable night could have been a turning point in his career.
"That Raiders game hurt a lot," Holland told NRL.com.
"I took a lot away from that game as you need to from losses, go back and evaluate each game, ask what more can I do. It paid off in the last six to 10 weeks where we had a couple of good performances there and hopefully we can build on that heading into 2019."
Holland is being frustrated by a stint in rehab following surgery on both ankles but is confident he will be running with teammates shortly after Christmas.
"I'm dying to get back out there – I've had off season surgery on both ankles. Arthroscope on both ankles and a little bit of bone removed from both ankles so I'm indoors at the minute," he said.
"All the indoor cardio, bikes, rowers, hopefully it will only be a couple more weeks and I'll be back out there working on those combinations and pressing for a starting spot come round one.
"That was one of my goals last year, once I got into that team just to not give it away. I was guilty of it in '16 and '17, getting into the team then relaxing a little bit and going back out so I didn't want to do that again.
"Once I got my chance I didn't want to give it away so that's the same sort of motivation and goal that I've got for 19."
One of Holland's other goals is to play his 50th NRL game; it was a target he set himself when he made his debut in 2016 and it's one a surprisingly small proportion of debutants manage.
With 46 caps to his name, Holland hopes that will come in round four so he can set his sights on bringing up a century in a couple of seasons.
"I set myself 50 games when I first started out and I'm at 46 so I've got four to go. I'd like to get to 50 when we play Melbourne in round four, that's my first goal," he said.
"My ultimate goal is to play for the Blues – I realise that's a long way off but you've got to set the bar high for yourself and give yourself something to work towards. It's something I'd like to aspire to.
"You see the likes of Latrell Mitchell and how talented they are. I'm probably not that talented by any stretch of the imagination but I can make it up elsewhere and that's what I'm going to work towards in 2019 and work the way Deano wants us to play.
"Hopefully I can put in a couple of good performances at the start of the year not the back of the year so we're there playing finals football."
Holland knows even an NRL start come round one is no guarantee despite the departures of the Morris twins, given the additions of Nick Meaney (Knights) and Christian Crichton (Panthers) to the backline with Will Hopoate set to return to the centres.
"It's interesting at the moment and creating good competition for spots," Holland added.
"That was one thing Deano said to us at the start when he brought those guys in, it's going to bring more competition and that's what we're after.
"It gets the best out of everyone and what we're doing in the pre-season, there's competition there day in day out so by the time round one comes we'll be hitting our straps and ready to go.
"Foz (Kieran Foran) is coming back from injury as well and he's looking unreal, he hasn't missed a session yet then guys like Corey (Harawira-Naera), Dylan Napa's just joined us, Christian Crichton, Nick Meaney and Jack Cogger all pushing for spots. It's going to be really exciting for us in 2019."