Stepping up ... Jack De Belin. Photo: Adam McLean
A trimmed-down Jack de Belin has promised to shed the laid-back attitude that had him "plodding" through his first full season of NRL in an attempt to win a vote of confidence from coach Steve Price.
Mired in a logjam for back row spots at the Dragons even despite the exits of veterans Dean Young (retirement) and Beau Scott (Newcastle), de Belin admitted his body and mind wasn't quite ready for the NRL rollercoaster it endured last season.
But after adopting a more professional approach in the 2013 preseason - including an earlier bedtime - the 21-year-old has set his sights on modelling front-row workhorses Michael Weyman and Dan Hunt.
Even if that means abandoning last year's attitude of "not stepping on any feet".
"Playing alongside both of them [Weyman and Hunt] last year I got an understanding you need to be dominant - and that's what they both are," the former Junior Kangaroo said. "They're both dominant people and when they call something it usually happens.
"I was standing back and letting them do what they wanted. I'm happy to step up and demand the ball instead of standing back and hoping to get it [this year]."
Used as a makeshift prop alongside Matt Prior for the Dragons' trial loss to North Queensland last Saturday night, de Belin has been named on an extended bench for the Charity Shield clash with Souths on Friday night.
Weyman will play his first match since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in round 10 last season when he also comes off the bench, but Hunt will sit out the clash in a bid to be fit for the season opener against Melbourne.
Prior and Michael Henderson were named as the starting props in Price's extended 22-man squad.
De Belin said he was keen to avoid a repeat of last season when he spent five games in the NSW Cup with the Illawarra Cutters, the Dragons' feeder side.
"I feel substantially fitter, stronger as well and I'm a lot leaner," he said. "I probably carried a little bit too much weight [last year] - I put it all on too quickly.
"This preseason my body has adapted and I'm more inclined to be able to train at a high intensity for a long time.
"I'm feeling much better - like I could play a lot more minutes I think and be more of a benefit to the team.
"When I am on the field I just need to be giving 100 per cent instead of just plodding along and hoping things will come.
"The older boys, you've got to respect them in a sense, but when the time comes you know when you have to step it up because you're not the rookie anymore."
St George Illawarra's re-modelled pack, featuring off-season recruits Bronson Harrison (Canberra) and Henderson (Titans), will face a stern test against the imposing Rabbitohs.
"You'd have to say they're a top four pack - they've got some big boys in there," de Belin said.
"They get some good roll-on and they're hard to stop once they get going. It will be a big task for us big boys up there so hopefully we can contain them."
Souths named Ben Te'o in a 22-man squad, with the Brisbane recruit to make his first appearance for the Rabbitohs.