There's a little bit of Matt Dufty's pride that hurts after being pushed back to the St George Illawarra bench.
But he's staying positive after acknowledging skipper Gareth Widdop is too good not to be picked ahead of him.
The Dragons have been slated as top four contenders this NRL season though much will depend on their spine puzzle as Paul McGregor attempts to fit five players into four spots.
Marquee recruit Corey Norman and former Brisbane teammate Ben Hunt have been selected to start in the halves, pushing Widdop back to fullback and last year's No.1 Dufty to the bench.
However, as witnessed during Saturday's 24-12 loss to North Queensland, Dufty is expected to see ample game time - a scenario which sees Widdop go back to the halves, Hunt to hooker and Cameron McInnes moving into the forward pack.
Asked about McGregor's decision to use him as a reserve and his ambitions to be the Dragons' long-term No.1, Dufty, 23, admitted it stung him "a little bit".
"But you've got to look at the big picture, how many people get to play in the NRL every week?
"It's just about appreciation, I could sook and have my head down but I've got to do my role in the team and bring energy when I get out on the field."
Widdop will depart for an English Super League career swansong at the end of 2019, which will open up the door for Dufty to return to the No.1 in 2020 - a goal to keep him focused for the rest of this year.
"I'm trying to cement that role for the years moving forward and it's a work in progress," Dufty said.
"(Widdop) is a world-class player and we have to have him in the team. It's at No.1 at the moment and he's going to do his job and he's going to win us football games."
After looking patchy against the Cowboys, the Dragons will seek to rebound against an in-form South Sydney on Thursday.
Norman said his combination with Widdop, Hunt and McInnes was always going to take time to develop and urged patience.
"I think it will take time, it always does with new combinations," Norman said.
"We knew that and we know that Saturday wasn't our best performance. We get to fix that this week.
"We're working at it and we'll get that combination right."
Australian Associated Press