Told by Wayne Bennett there was a permanent starting spot for him if he proved he earned it, Souths back-rower Bayley Sironen has set about doing exactly that since being handed his first starting spot in round 11.
With just five games to his name before this season (two of those at Wests Tigers in 2018), Sironen was promoted to start after injuries to Ethan Lowe and fellow fringe forwards Hame Sele and Tom Amone compounded the retirements of John Sutton and Sam Burgess.
Having mostly come on for short stints in the middle previously, he has improved steadily since in the chance to lock down an edge forward role.
That was capped by arguably his best game in first grade in the huge 38-0 win over the Eels, producing 121 metres, 29 tackles and two busts in a 72-minute spell.
"We lost Lowey earlier on in the year and that opened up an opportunity for me to get a starting spot so I was very thankful for the coaching staff to give me the belief in myself to come on and play that role," Sironen told NRL.com.
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"I'm trying to repay that and I think we're building nicely.
"[Bennett] just said to me there's an opportunity for me to nail that left edge spot and it's mine to take if I'm willing to do that.
"He's been happy with the way I've been playing lately, I just have to keep building on that. Moving into the finals now it's really important that we start nailing games."
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Sironen said his goal at the start of the year was just to push his way into Bennett's top 17 – something he didn't achieve in the two rounds prior to the shut-down.
"I wasn't there before the COVID break but I worked pretty hard in that break so that when an opportunity came I was ready to grab it," he added.
Sironen still isn't sure if edge will be his spot moving forward but is keen to do whatever keeps him in the team.
"I'm not too sure [what my best spot is] to be honest," he said.
"I'm really enjoying playing there at the moment but if I'm needed in the middle then I'm happy to play that role as well.
"My combination with Cody [Walker] is building nicely as well and Damien [Cook] in the middle.
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"Cody's really stepped up the last month or so. He's taken the reins on that left edge, I just have to listen to what he tells me to do."
Walker had plenty of praise for both his left edge partner and the other developing young forwards in the squad such as Kaeon Koloamatangi and Pat Mago.
"Bayley creates a lot of momentum with his leg speed, he's just a go-er, he works so hard in attack and defence, he's a pleasure to play alongside," Walker said.
"We've got a pretty good combination there so we'll see how that goes.
"It is a new-look forward pack but if you asked me last year, the potential was definitely there. They were tremendous players and tremendous trainers and they've taken the opportunity and run with it and taken it with both hands. They've been outstanding."
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That depth in the Souths pack has been critical given the turnover in players and loss of experience recently.
"Losing Sutto and Sam was obviously a big loss for the playing group but they're still around, they're guiding us younger fellas to fill the void that they left and I think they're doing a really good job at that and those boys coming off the bench have really owned that role so we're building nicely," Sironen said.
"The belief has always been there but it's really starting to show out on the field now and we set our focus for that top four so hopefully if we keep playing the way we are we can really nail a spot there."