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Off-contract Lafai welcomes challenge for centre spot

St George Illawarra centre Tim Lafai wants to lock in the left centre spot with a big performance in the Charity Shield on Saturday night before worrying about his long-term future.

Lafai's mission of stopping opposite number James Roberts and the Rabbitohs' star-studded backline in the Mudgee clash isn't the only challenge for the 28-year-old, with new teammate Brayden Williame impressing over the pre-season.

Lafai welcomed the addition of Williame to compete for his incumbent jersey and believed the challenge of fending off his teammate has rejuvenated him after producing a mixed year in 2019.

"It's going to be whoever goes out there and performs tomorrow night will deserve it," Lafai told NRL.com when asked who will win the round one spot.

"Brayden and I are tight and always competing on everything. That only brings out the best in you. Everyone is a bit hungrier after last year's results throughout the whole team and this is no different.

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"It wasn't up to our standards and going into this year it's the key for us to create that level of pushing everyone to their limits."

Lafai wants to correct an unwanted statistic of his own in 2019 – he hasn't crossed the try line in his last 15 appearances – the longest drought of his NRL career.

Along with growing criticism from a fan base desperate for results, it was a nightmare scenario for the Samoan international to come to terms with.

"It wasn't up to my standards last year, I was so disappointed in myself," Lafai said.

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"There were big differences between my best game and worst game. If I can close that gap and find a fine line, then I'll go a long way to playing good footy for the team.

"I would like more from my career and I demand more from myself. I've got to keep asking myself questions."

The former Bulldog will enter his 10th season in the NRL in 2020 after nine finals appearances in the past decade.

Off contract at season's end, Lafai understands the importance of recapturing his own form in a bid to secure a new deal either at the Dragons or a rival club.

"It does a cross my mind a little bit but the key for me is to find some consistency and I don't want to look too far ahead," Lafai said.

"It shows time goes fast. When I was 19 running around I thought how good is this so it can be a bit of a reality check.

"I'd like to hit that 200 mark for NRL games one day and to do that I've got to stay in the NRL. I'm loving it here and my family is settled. But whatever happens, happens.

"I've got to do what's best for my family at the end of the day and the club has to do the same for them as well."