GOING into the 2020 NRL season, many thought Gerringong's Jackson Ford was going to hit the ground running.
Ford, after making his debut in round 21 against the Titans in 2019, went on to play the next four matches for the St George Illawarra Dragons in the back-row.
However, instead of picking up where he left off last season, the Lions junior has been stuck on the sidelines until last Friday, when he made his season debut in his side's loss to the Roosters.
"It was great to get back on the field and get my first game of the season under the belt," Ford said.
"Although I didn't play big minutes , I thought it was a good starting point for me to build on in the coming weeks.
"Obviously there are things I'd change with my performance, including a couple of missed tackles and improved match fitness, but that's footy and I'll learn from it."
The 22-year-old will get the chance to continue his momentum this Friday, being named to start on the bench for the Red V when they travel to the nation's capital to face Canberra.
"We know it's going to be cold on Friday in Canberra but we can't worry too much about that - it's all about collecting those wins," he said.
When his number is called by coach Paul McGregor at GIO Stadium, he expects he'll link up with fellow Group Seven product Adam Clune on the left edge.
"Cluney and I have played a lot together in reserve grade the past few years and developed quite a strong combination," he said.
"It was good to play alongside him in the top grade for the first time.
"He's controlling the team well and I'm looking forward to teaming up again with him on Friday."
Ford, who recently extended his contract at the club until the end of 2022 season, knows he has to continue to perform on the field, with the Dragons having plenty of depth in the back-row stocks.
"There's plenty of competition for spots in the back-row at the moment, including the likes of Hosty [Jacob Host], Tyrell [Fuimaono], Tariq [Sims] and Friz [Tyson Frizell]," he said.
"It's great to be able to learn from those guys but also compete, which makes us all better.
"It's imperative I keep putting my best foot forward and grow as a player every time I step out onto the field - to ensure I become the best player I can be."