Esan Marsters concedes his passion for football waned last year as he struggled at the Cowboys.
The New Zealand Test representative admitted to complacency upon joining North Queensland. That contributed to him being dropped in the back-half of a tough season.
Marsters' defence, in particular, was scrutinised, with his tackle efficiency rate of 71.5 percent leading to him being frequently targeted on the right edge alongside winger Kyle Feldt.
But the 24-year-old's excitement and belief has returned. The arrival of his daughter Giselle in October has changed his outlook, so too the "family-oriented" vibes at the club set by new coach Todd Payten.
"I didn’t play good footy [in 2020]. I think the most important thing was consistency, and coming into a new team, I thought I was just going to walk into it," Marsters said on Wednesday.
"For myself, it's coming out there and putting my best foot forward. I haven't been training with Feldty, I've been training with other people. I think they've been trying to mix us up and see how we cope."
Marsters said uprooting his life in Sydney when he left the Wests Tigers had contributed to his form for the Cowboys.
"I wasn't playing good footy at the Tigers as well. This year, I'm looking forward to it with the new coaches and just the way we want to play, but also my mindset going into this year," he said.
I find it pretty cool, it's more ad-lib footy. I like playing my offloads and pushing upEsan Marsters on the new look Cowboys
"I want to be able to focus and do all the little things right. I just probably wasn't enjoying my footy as much. When you're at that downhill [stage], you're always just trying to chase it.
"This year I think the coaches have given me a lot of feedback on what I need to work on.
"Toddy's been honest with me throughout the pre-season, what he wants me to become. It's just a lot of things have changed over the past couple of months for me as well.
"Having a new baby and settling in, having new responsibilities. I think that was what was missing in my life, responsibilities.
"Now since I've had a bub it's been a bit hard, but my wife does all the work ... I'm feeling a lot more confident in my footy and I know if I can get areas like my defence right it will help me a lot."
The former Warriors mentor's desire to turn North Queensland into a "fast-moving", reactive unit sits well with Marsters, who topped the team's offload count last year with 25.
"I find it pretty cool, it's more ad-lib footy. I like playing my offloads and pushing up," Marsters said.
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"We are building combinations and it is a bit different out there at the moment. For us, I feel like if you chuck anyone in that team before round one, anyone could do the job."
Meanwhile, back-rower Coen Hess has declared "there's no time for excuses" as he prepares for his seventh NRL season.
The Queensland representative is keen to take on a bigger leadership role to help the Cowboys return to finals contention.
"I just want the club to get back into a winning type of way. When I first came onto the scene I think I wasn't really accustomed to losing games and I've had a fair taste of that now," Hess said.
"I certainly know which end of the stick I'd rather. As long as the club's winning, that's all I really care about."