Wests Tigers playmaker Luke Brooks says he has mentally overcome last season's rollercoaster campaign, which included the 26-year-old being benched for the first time in his NRL career.
Brooks was among the side's best in their 52-18 trial win over the Sea Eagles in a sign the maligned halfback had taken Michael Maguire's advice to offer "more" leading into the 2021 season.
After being crowned the Dally M halfback of the year in 2019, Brooks noticeably took a backseat to Benji Marshall last year, who led the side in try assists with 17.
In comparison, Brooks finished with just three assists from 17 appearances.
With Marshall off to the Rabbitohs, Brooks has little choice but to step up in a season where few outside the club are expecting the Tigers to break their decade-long finals drought.
Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles
And in another sign he's ready to take on extra work, Brooks showed he was more than capable with the boot, slotting five goals from six attempts in a career first.
"Taking responsibility comes with the role," Brooks told NRL.com.
"The way we're going to play is having that traditional halfback and not having it split left and right.
"I think that's when I play my best footy. I've looked at deception stuff and playing around the ball … coming up with ways to trying to outsmart the defence.
"There's a lot of video that goes into the game now so every game is switched on.
Victory brings belief to Maguire and his team
"You've got to find ways to score points."
Being more unpredictable hasn't always been at the forefront of his mind during his 148-game career but he believes there is no greater time to test the waters.
Brooks has been a mainstay in the club's spine for seven seasons but has watched on as those around him have either shuffled around positions or departed the club.
It's the same proposition in 2021 with the exits of Marshall and Harry Grant leaving Brooks to adjust to a new combination alongside the likes of Adam Doueihi, Jacob Liddle and Daine Laurie.
"I'm in a good spot [mentally] and quietly confident that we can get to where we'd like to, and that's playing finals footy and competing for the title," Brooks said.
"We've bought really well with some big, experienced forwards and then someone like Stefano who will change the way we play around the middle.
"You look at someone like James Roberts when at his best is close to unstoppable. If we can get him to that spot, then we'll be happy with that."
With Doueihi out in round one through suspension, Brooks said he hoped former Knights junior Jock Madden would be handed a debut against the Raiders in Canberra.
"I think he's been outstanding all pre-season," Brooks said.
"He does all the little things right. Hopefully he can get a crack."