After yet another season left frustrated by injury, Dragons young gun Kyle Stanley received a welcome boost on Tuesday when he was named to start a match for the first time since round 14, 2012.
Stanley was named at hooker in Paul McGregor's side to take on Newcastle at Hunter Stadium, with regular rake Mitch Rein to miss the match after entering an early guilty plea to a dangerous contact charge arising out of the Dragons' 30-22 loss to Brisbane last week.
While he's escaped the serious injuries that have plagued his career, 2014 was another season spent largely in the injury ward as Stanley battled quad and hamstring damage - collateral harm from his four knee reconstructions - after playing the Dragons's opening five games from the interchange bench.
He fought his way back through the Illawarra Cutters to earn a top-grade recall for the hoodoo-breaking victory over Canberra in round 23.
Stanley said finishing the season in the first-grade starting line-up ensured he would look back on the season as a positive year.
"I came into grade this year, played five games and then got dropped back to NSW Cup, so to finish the year playing grade is a great achievement for me," Stanley said.
"I'll see it as a positive season now. I had back-to-back injuries during the middle of the year, so to finish the year out in first grade is pretty pleasing.
"It's unfortunate for Mitch. He's been great for us all year, so to miss out on the last game up in Newey it's disappointing but in my regard I'm really looking forward to the challenge.
"It's a good test for me to see where I'm at, starting in the team, and it's just great to be back in the side."
It's a timely opportunity for the 23-year-old who is off contract at season's end, with Sunday's match against the Knights shaping as his last chance to press his claims for an extension.
"I'm off contract at the end of the year, so my footy's got to sort that out," Stanley said.
"I can't really do anything else other than play footy, so hopefully I do get an extension.
"I'm sure any local junior for any club would love to stay with their club but your footy's got to do its own talking."
Stanley said the long-term appointment of McGregor, a long-time supporter of his, served to increase his desire to remain with the club.
"Any sort of coach that has a high regard for you, it always gives you a lot of confidence and it drives you to want to play for them and want to play good footy.
"Mary's obviously shown that in me, so I've got to pay him back by playing good footy," Stanley said.
Ben Creagh will miss the final match against Newcastle with an ankle injury.
Tyson Frizell has been named to start at prop and Shane Pumipi is likely to share the hooking role with Stanley from the interchange bench.