IT may have taken longer than he had hoped but Gerringong's Jackson Ford is making the most of his NRL opportunities over the past month.
There's no coincidence the Dragons form over the past four games, which includes wins against the Sea Eagles and Bulldogs and tough losses to the Roosters and Raiders, has continued to improve - with Ford featuring in each contest.
Now with the suspension of fellow Lions product Tariq Sims, Ford, a 22-year-old forward, could be looking at an expanded workload against Cronulla-Sutherland this Saturday at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.
"Tyrell [Fuimaono] will start but Mary [Paul McGregor] has told me to be ready for anything during this weekend's match," Ford said.
"I should be looking at a similar workload through the middle but rugby league is a funny game and anything could happen.
"My main focus is improving on the week before's performance and playing my role to help the boys win."
The back-rower has become a second half specialist, playing a key role in helping the Dragons erase a 10-point half-time deficit against the Bulldogs.
"When I was injected into the game last week, the battle was really starting to heat up, which is what I love," Ford, who's averaging 21 minutes a game this season, said.
"It was nice and exciting to get on at that time of the game - being fresh against numerous other tired forwards.
"I tried to use that as an advantage, by finding holes in the Bulldogs' defensive line.
"I'd love it if this can lead to more minutes down the line but until then, I'll keep playing my role the best I can."
Saturday's win against the Bulldogs moved the Red V into two points of the top eight, which Ford acknowledges has lifted the mood around the club.
"Everyone's got a little more hop in their step at the moment, which is a by-product of winning," Ford, who's enjoyed playing alongside the side's new hooker and lock combination of Ben Hunt and Cam McInnes, said.
"You can see everyone's combinations are starting to click that little bit more and we are all keen to build on that this weekend."
Ford will start on the Dragons' four-man bench alongside fellow Group Seven product Trent Merrin (Shellharbour) as well as Jacob Host and Josh Kerr.
While Shellharbour's Euan Aitken and Albion Park-Oak Flats' Adam Clune will start at centre and halfback respectively for the round 11 fixture.
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