St George Illawarra have ratcheted up their physical intensity at training after a simple ultimatum from coach Paul McGregor: perform well or lose your spot.
After two frustrating losses to begin the season, Dragons players have revealed McGregor put the side on notice by declaring no one is guaranteed selection, regardless of reputation.
McGregor has already made some tough calls with veterans Issac Luke, Trent Merrin and Tim Lafai not named in his 17 to face the Warriors at Central Coast Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
"Anyone's not really safe is what Mary [McGregor] was saying, the way he put it," bench prop Josh Kerr said.
"[In the past] he sort of has shown a bit more faith towards those boys that have done all the hard work before, in terms of they've earned it.
"... If one of the older boys, more experienced boys has not had the best game, he'd give them another chance next week because he knows they've done it before.
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"But we're at a point now where if you're not performing, you're just out. And to be honest, I think it's probably the best thing.
"Because everyone is just - I wouldn't say scared - but they're just a bit more worried about making sure they're doing everything at 100%."
Kerr said there was "a lot of healthy competition throughout the club", with the training field now the main arena for many players to impress the coaching staff after the second-tier Canterbury Cup competition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Everyone's going hammer and tong at training," said Kerr, who considered the likes of Merrin and Jacob Host unfortunate to miss selection for round three having been "outstanding".
Utility forward Tyrell Fuimaono elaborated on the brutal sessions.
"Honestly, these last two weeks we've been smashing each other. I've been as sore as I've been post-game. We've actually been smashing each other," Fuimaono said.
"I think it's the best prep that we can get having had that break of no contact, to go from 0 to 100 real quick. That's the mindset that we took on board, training like we're going to play.
"There's a few boys that lead the way when it comes to that. I know big Taz [Tariq Sims], he doesn't shy away from contact. He loves to bang as well. Friz [Tyson Frizell] goes good.
"I think the middles as a group, now that we have two full teams competing against each other [at training], it's almost like a personal competition to bring it and set the standard."
Asked if the heated scrimmages have boiled over into a scuffle, Fuimaono quipped: "Bully [Luke] keeps getting a bit cheeky, I think a few guys are going to sort him out if he keeps carrying on the way he does. But not yet unfortunately."
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Meanwhile, captain Cameron McInnes is confident he'll be fine to play the whole match at hooker in his return from a knee injury.
"This week coach has decided that it's best to keep the one hooker in the squad and have a different make-up on the bench," McInnes said in reference to Luke's omission.
"I was ready for anything but I've played three years now, 80 minutes at hooker, so it's not going to be anything new to me to do that this week."