TALKING to Jackson Ford on the eve of the NRL season, you can sense his hunger for success.
What also comes across when talking to the St George Illawarra rookie forward is that he does not expect things to be simply handed to him.
He will sweat, run and make whatever sacrifice is needed so he can increase his NRL game tally.
The Group Seven product made his NRL debut in round 21, 2019 against the Gold Coast Titans and wants more in 2020.
He recalls the excitement he felt when he was told about his debut match and remembers the build-up to game day.
"I was told early in the week that I would make my debut and I got to play at Kogarah in front of my family and friends which was special," Ford said.
He then played every remaining Dragons' NRL game that season after making his debut.
Ford is humble and just does not think he will gain automatic selection in the NRL team just because of his previous efforts.
"My selection in the NRL came after one of my best years in the Canterbury Cup," Ford explained how his progression into the elite team came about.
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The Gerringong junior was then named the Dragons' Canterbury Cup NSW Player of the Year at the club's 2019 presentation evening.
The promising forward has added a bit more bulk to his frame.
"I was 95 and now I am up to 99 kilograms," he said.
"I am happy with being 99 kilograms at the moment.
"You don't want to get too big too soon because that's how you can get injuries."
Ford feels the need to get bigger so he can handle the week to week NRL physicality better.
He impressed many NRL experts once he made his debut, but he is definitely not taking things for granted.
The rookie backrower said there were aspects of his game he needed to improve, including defence.
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Given the Dragons' back stocks he knows he won't simply stroll into the team.
State of Origin representatives Tyson Frizell and Tariq Sims (also a Gerringong junior), along with Jacob Host and new signing Tyrell Fuimaono are all eyeing off places in the back row.
The Dragons are ripping into pre-season training.
"This is my third-year pre-season training and I would say it's the most intense," Ford said.
He says morale within the squad is strong, adding the Dragons were working hard to make sure they have a better year this season.
Rookie half and member of the South Coast Cockatoos' Koori Knockout winning team, Jayden 'Bud' Sullivan, caught Ford's attention over summer.
Ford, like many others, thinks Bud Sullivan will develop into a special player.
"Bud looks to be a good nippy type of player," he said.
He added the coaching group which is a mixture of old and new led by Paul 'Mary' McGregor had the squad working well and hard.
Dragons have been pushing and encouraging each other in the gym and during their other training sessions.
Away from pre-season training Ford and many of the other Dragons also visited the bushfire hit regions of the Shoalhaven and South Coast.
Ford said seeing the devastation first hand was confronting and seeing the destruction in person, compared to seeing it on television, was a lot different.
He has family in Nowra and said thankfully they were not impacted by the bushfires.
Meanwhile, the Dragons are preparing for their annual pre-season Charity Shield match against South Sydney and will also be playing in the Nines.
Ford does not know the makeup of either squad and is just waiting for his chance to impress.
"As one of the quicker forwards I would love to play in the Nines," he said.
It's always good to ask up and coming footy stars about their advice to juniors coming up the ranks.
"I would say you need to have fun," he said.
"It's no good if you are not enjoying the sport and so yeah just have fun."