Bustling Dragons prop Dan Hunt has shied away from focusing on the quest to add to his meagre representative haul, claiming higher honours "will look after themselves".
Absent from both St George Illawarra's trial losses in the lead-up to a daunting season opener in Melbourne, the 26-year-old is set to be paired with old sparring partner Michael Weyman for the AAMI Park showdown against the Melbourne Storm.
Weyman is also returning from an injury of sorts, the Moruya junior in line to make his first NRL appearance since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in May last year.
While Weyman has chalked up NSW Country, State of Origin and Australian caps, Hunt has been on the periphery of representative reckoning for several years.
Touted for higher honours as one of the Dragons' most consistent performers, Hunt said he was cautious about focusing too much on adding to his one NSW Country cap, especially after sitting out the Dragons' march to the 2010 premiership with a season-ending Achilles injury.
"Don't get me wrong, I would love to play representative football," Hunt said.
"The way I look at it is if you don't think about it and want it too bad, those things come and look after themselves.
"I know it's a bit cliche-ish; my goal is to start the year as well as I can and do my role in the team.
"Hopefully the rewards from playing good football will be rep football.
"I'm not too worried about that at the moment."
Hunt's return to a full-strength Dragons pack will bolster Steve Price's forward stocks in what's expected to be a bruising clash with the world club champions.
The 125-game veteran said his calf problem was the by-product of collapsing to the turf in agony with a torn Achilles while warming up for a regular season fixture almost three years ago.
"Personally, I'm feeling pretty good," Hunt said.
"It stemmed a lot from my original injury with my Achilles back in 2010 so it's just all that extra pressure on my other leg.
"The staff have done a really good job and got me back on the field.
"Steve's put the faith in me to do the job for round one so I'm looking forward to getting back into it and starting 2013 on a good note."
The battle to keep Hunt and Weyman on the park consistently will go a long way to determining the Red V's fortunes in 2013 in what should be a pack with plenty of starch.
Hunt said the depth in the forwards was arguably stronger than it had been for years, with Price putting all players on notice ahead of a tricky first month of the season.
Returning front-rower Michael Henderson and boom prop Jack de Belin were among the men consigned to NSW Cup duty with the Illawarra Cutters this weekend.
"It's definitely one of the strengths in our team," Hunt said.
"[But] as I said, if someone gets injured or is not in form someone else will be coming in to fill that spot. It keeps everyone on their toes."
Hunt, studying for a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education, is one of 10 Dragons players who will not only return to the footy field this week, but have been hitting the books in preparation for this year's tertiary studies.
All of them are part of the Graduates of League program, which was launched at the University of Wollongong's Innovation Campus yesterday, headed by Dragons skipper Ben Creagh.