By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
Not content with his breakout season at the Dragons, Jack de Belin is looking to again take it up a notch in 2016 – not that he really has a choice.
With Mose Masoe, Sebastine Ikahihifo, Dunamis Lui and Tyrone McCarthy joining the Red V for the upcoming season, as well as Russell Packer's long-awaited return to the NRL, de Belin and his existing Red V forwards have their work cut out for them.
Though the quality of squad means de Belin will have to work hard to keep his spot, the 24-year-old remains buoyed by the club's depth.
"We have a lot of depth this year and there are a lot of quality first-graders floating around the club now. Blokes like Dunamis Lui and Sebastine Ikahihifo – they have played a fair bit in the NRL and are quality players," de Belin told NRL.com.
"Everyone is going to be pushing for spots and I don't think any spot is guaranteed. It's only going to make me hungrier and to strive to obviously achieve more.
"If we were to say, similarly to last year, have a run of injuries – we just didn't have that quality and calibre of players that we needed to fill spots – but I feel this year if anyone was to go down then we'll be able to replace them quite easily."
Set to play his 100th NRL game against the Knights in Round 16 next year, de Belin will be thankful for his career-best season just gone – an impetus to build on moving forward.
Averaging 122.9 metres and 35 tackles in his 22 games, only a leg infection prevented him from playing every game in 2015.
"It was probably time for me to step up and I was probably a little bit overdue. I took a little bit longer than what I would have hoped but as a forward I realise it takes a little bit longer to develop and find your feet in first grade," de Belin said.
"I definitely felt last year was the year where I finally took off and realised what I was capable of. It was nice to be able to show what I can do."
As for 2016, the Cootamundra Bulldogs junior has one eye on a maiden Country Origin jumper.
"I feel last year I could've maybe earned a start in the Country game but it wasn't to be. But I have to start the year strong and get that maiden Country jumper," de Belin said.
"That's the goal every first grader should aspire to – you can't just be happy playing in the NRL every week. I feel I have the capabilities and potential amongst me, it's just a matter of showcasing it."