Kevin Locke has about a million reasons to feel unwanted but insists the Warriors' high-profile pursuit of Sam Tomkins has not put him off his stride.
The Auckland club have been openly courting the Wigan superstar, rated the best player in Super League and who comes with a huge price tag. It seems an unusual situation; Tomkins is also a fullback, and with that scale of investment, won't be expected to turn out for the Vulcans but Locke has been a consistent performer over the past few seasons.
"It was tough at the start when I heard about [Tomkins]," Locke told the Herald on Sunday. "He is a fullback - an exceptional fullback - so that got me a little bit. But then I thought; I am the fullback in 2013; I'm here so I need to show the club and everyone that I am the man for the job.
"Now I feel it is quite motivating. I have to work hard because you might not be here for much longer if they buy someone in your position. I want to work hard and show the club that you don't need to go and spend a million dollars, you can bump up my contract if I am doing well."
Locke says coach Matt Elliott took him aside when the Tomkins news first broke, reassuring the Northcote Tigers junior of his future at the club.
"He told me not to worry and that 'we are doing this for the betterment of the club but we would love you at the club as well; you will play a part in this.'
"At the end of the day he is a fullback and I have to look out for myself as well. I trust Matty and everyone else and it was good not to have it on my mind as much."
"He knows where I stand," explains Elliott. "I see him as part of the team regardless of any other inclusions. He can play a key role in a few positions and he knows my level of belief in him. I don't think he has any doubt about that."
There has been some talk in league circles of a swap deal with Wigan (Locke for Tomkins) - flatly denied by CEO Wayne Scurrah - and Locke is adamant he wants to stay at Mt Smart. He's not interested in being a winger ("I feel I have a lot more to offer than just sitting out on the wing") but has played in the halves and at hooker as a junior.
"I want to be here as long as I can," asserts Locke. "They have looked after me through the ups and downs and I want to give back as much as I can. I want to be here. A lot of people say it might be good to have a change but I don't feel that way. If the club didn't want me, I would have to look at other choices but hopefully I can be here for a long time."
Still only 24, it feels like Locke has been around forever. He burst onto the scene in the second half of 2009, playing 12 games and ending the season as the club's top points scorer.
He had it all - incredible acceleration and pace, a dynamic sidestep, a huge leap under the high ball and bags of courage.
After steady progress, Locke hit his peak in 2011 on the end of a rampant backline. He scored tries, made slashing breaks and always seemed to be on the shoulder of a forward, ready for an offload. He averages one try every three matches (24 tries in 76 NRL matches), though he has yet to touch down this year. He's still quick - rated third fastest in the club behind Glen Fisiiahi and Shaun Johnson over 40 metres - but doesn't seem to have the lightning top end speed of years past.
"I have extras to work on to get that pace back," admits Locke. "I'm not as fast as I was in 2011; I know I can be but the injuries have affected me and I have been a bit lazy [with rehabilitation]. The pace will come back; it also comes down to confidence."
Locke is the ultimate confidence player. Blessed with tons of natural talent, he hasn't always made the most of it. You feel there is a lot more to give, that he could become someone mentioned in the same breath as Slater, Barba and Stewart. He has also been a difficult case off the field - with various misdeeds, including multiple driving offences - but has matured in the last 12 months, helped by the recent birth of his first child (Louie).
"I think he can be a great player and I don't like to over-use that word," says Elliott. "But it won't come from how he is coached - it will come from him and what he wants to achieve. He's a player who, if he really decides to take that next step, can have a massive impact on the team. He can be a player in the top echelon."
Locke admits his form has been "up and down" this season, which has also been injury-interrupted. During 2011, he set weekly goals with [then assistant coach] Tony Iro to keep him on his toes and has recently returned to that system.