LIKE most NRL players, Euan Aitken has endured a tumultuous start to 2020.
The Merimbula-Pambula product, who had become a staple in Paul McGregor's St George Illawarra side over the past few seasons, was dropped for the team's opening two fixtures in 2020.
"I knew I wasn't too far away from being in the side and Mary [McGregor] just kept telling me to play to my strengths whenever I stepped on the field," Aitken said.
"I respected Mary's decision to mix things up the first few weeks.
"I'm confident in my ability and always worked hard at training to ensure I would be ready if an opportunity presented itself."
However, after working hard during the COVID-19 lockdown, the former Shellharbour Shark forced his way back into the Red V's best 17 - albeit on the reserves bench.
"Starting from the bench was different to what I'm used to but I'm willing to play any role for the team I can, to help the team win," Aitken said.
Then an injury to Brayden Williame created an opportunity for the 25-year-old to start against Cronulla-Sutherland on Sunday, which assisted the club chalking up their first win for 2020.
"The win was really satisfying and it was good to finally get the monkey off the back and grab our first competition points for 2020," Aitken, who's been capped three times for Scotland, said.
"It showed glimpses of what we are capable of and provides our fans with some hope moving forward."
Making it even more special was getting the opportunity to play alongside Albion Park-Oak Flats product Adam Clune.
"I was really happy to get back into the starting side, especially getting the chance to play alongside one of my best mates Adam Clune," he said.
"We haven't had that opportunity before in first grade and even when we did play together in the lower grades, we were on different sides of the field."
As Aitken alludes to, Sunday saw him play in the unfamiliar position of left centre, after playing the majority of his 107-game career on the right.
"I thought Sunday was a really good starting point for me moving forward," he said.
"The change of sides is obviously a little different for me but I took plenty of positives from the match and will be looking to build on that momentum this weekend.
"We've been working hard this week on developing those combinations and I'm keen to maintain my spot on that left edge."
The Dragons, which also feature Group Seven product Shellharbour's Trent Merrin, will next play Gold Coast on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium.
"The feeling around the group is a lot happier this week - it's crazy what a win does to team morale," the former NSW Country representative said.
"Obviously we were all hurt during those loses but we dug deep for one another and enjoyed the well deserved win - we're a really tight club.
"We know the win is only the starting point, as we have to keep working hard - Gold Coast is going to be just as desperate as us."
Another driving force for Aitken, who played for the Prime Minister's XIII in 2015, to continue performing is a contract extension, as his current one runs out at the end of 2020.
"I'd be lying if it wasn't in the back of my mind," he said.
"I love it here at the Dragons and am going to do everything possible to try and extend my stay here.
"However, those things will take care of themselves if I can to perform week in, week out for the Dragons."
Sign up for Tackle Count, the NRL newsletter you need: Straight to your mailbox every Thursday before the footy kicks off