Lacking self-belief after starting the year in Canterbury Cup, Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma credits coach Michael Maguire with helping find his mojo.
Nofoaluma reckons he's hardly had a better pre-season than last summer but a dislocated shoulder leading into round one sidelined the local junior for a month.
Once fit, Nofoaluma was kept in reserve grade until an NRL recall in round 11. He admitted to being tested by the difficult period.
"You're always low on confidence when you get a bit of a setback," Nofoaluma told NRL.com.
"It's always tough but I've had worse setbacks in the past. Obviously it hurts you – well, it hurts me because I like to believe that I deserve to be in first grade and it comes with a lot of hard work."
A meeting with Maguire reinforced that Nofoaluma is part of the first-year Tigers mentor's plans.
Maguire continued to check in with Nofoaluma and his words of encouragement assisted the 25-year-old's return to form.
"He had high hopes for me when he first came to the club. He likes players that put in at training and have a good attitude. He saw that in me in the pre-season, so from then he really liked me," Nofoaluma said.
"Throughout my time in Canterbury Cup, he always pushed me to get back to first grade and if I did something in a game or needed to work on something, he'd let me know.
"It's good from the head coach to be able to do that for a player and he does that across the club. But he's always let me know he has high hopes for me.
"It made me feel confident to play at my best because he was always there to guide me."
After continuing to impress with his work ethic and professional outlook, Nofoaluma was elevated to the top side when Corey Thompson was shifted from the wing to fullback.
The spring in Nofoaluma's step is back and it's shown in his performances, with the flanker averaging 152 metres and claiming three tries across his past three starts.
But he's keen to reach another level as the 11th-placed Tigers attempt to break a seven-year finals drought.
"There's always room for improvement," he said.
Another reason Maguire may be fond of Nofoaluma is the athletic finisher's studious nature.
He carries a notebook to team meetings and jots down important points from video reviews or game-plans.
"I like to use my notebook for things on opposition teams and for ourselves that we can improve on," Nofoaluma said.
"I think it's a good way personally to improve my game or learn about my opposition. In our [weekly] team meeting we do video sessions, so if I see something on the video I'll make note of it.
"At least I know it's there for the future. We played the Cowboys, for example, once already [a 27-26 win in round 14] – I've already got a rough idea of some plays and what to do."
However, Nofoaluma wasn't prepared to divulge any secrets on North Queensland ahead of their clash at Leichhardt Oval on Thursday night, saying: "I'm going to have to leave that in the book."