With a year under his belt at the Vodafone Warriors, Rotorua's Hayze Perham is not the new kid on the block any more.
The Warriors held a pre-season training camp at Rotorua International Stadium this week, a return home for the former Rotorua Boys' High School first XV captain, and he certainly looked at ease in the environment.
During on-field training, Perham showed no fear in making his voice heard and directing his side around the field - qualities that could be crucial if he is to transition from fullback to the halves this season.
With Shaun Johnson having jumped ship to the Cronulla Sharks during the off-season, there is a place in the halves up for grabs and it appears to be a two horse race between Perham, who made 21 appearances at fullback in the Intrust Super Premiership (ISP), and his ISP teammate Chanel Harris-Tavita.
"It's a bit of surprise [being touted as a potential replacement for Johnson], but at the same time we just have to carry on with what we're doing, training hard and doing the best we can.
"There's a lot of competition there for me - Chanel and Adam Keighran. But, we love working together, we know there's a spot up for grabs and we'll push each other to try and get that. We all understand the jersey is there for the taking so we're pushing each other every day," Perham said.
In his 21 appearances at fullback last season, Perham scored six tries, made eight try assists and averaged 121.3 running metres per game. However, the halves is where he has always wanted to play.
"It has been a mean experience with a lot of learning. Obviously playing the whole first year in that grade, there were a lot of experienced players in there.
"But, training every day with the full squad, trying to get as much knowledge as possible and being taught by some of the best players in New Zealand is awesome. Playing fullback last year I spent a lot of time with Dodge (Roger Tuivasa-Sheck), he's the Dally M Medal winner, the best player in the world, so can't get much better than that.
"This year, trying to transition into the halves, I've spent a bit more time with Greeny (Blake Green), trying to learn from him and the other experienced halves.
"The halves pretty much run the show, it's a lot more ball in hand than at fullback. I think I play my best footy with the ball in hand, so it's been really good transitioning into that role."
He said he had some ups and downs with injury in his first year, but overall he was happy.
"Being the first year I was buzzing, trying to bring as much fun and excitement to my game as I could. Playing at the back it's a big role, you get to sweep, be wherever on the field and I got a lot of joy out of that."
He said the highlight of 2018 was the living the lifestyle of a professional athlete, something he had always dreamed of, and he was still loving every minute.
"Coming through school, that was the only thing I ever wanted to do. Live every day doing the thing I love, the lifestyle as a whole was probably the biggest highlight.
"On the hard days, you just think I'd rather be doing this than building houses or digging holes. I love it.
"The big goal this year is to make my [NRL] debut, compete every week for the jersey, then try to solidify a position in that starting 17. There's tough competition for every single position here, so one game doesn't mean anything, you can be out-trained in the next two weeks and you're out just like that."
He enjoyed being able to show his teammates a bit of where he grew up this week.
"We went white water rafting and went to the markets, it's always good coming home, especially bringing the boys and showing them around."
The Warriors play their first pre-season game against the Melbourne Storm in Geelong on Friday, February 22.
Hayze Perham's 2018 Intrust Super Premiership Statistics
Try Assists: 8
Tackle Breaks: 61
Line Breaks: 8
Tackles made: 71
Tackles missed: 24
Average Running Metres: 121.3
- Statistics sourced from nswrl.com.au