Nicho Hynes claims his years as an unwanted NRL hopeful help him put into perspective the pressure of preparing for the biggest month of his career at Cronulla.
Unsigned four years ago while playing Queensland Cup, Hynes will lead the Sharks' finals charge this month as a genuine Dally M contender.
The 26-year-old has played in four finals off the bench for Melbourne, while he also sat on the interchange for the entire 2020 grand final without getting on.
But never before has he started in a finals match, let alone in the crucial No.7 jersey as the man guiding the Sharks' title hopes.
"It's just a lot more added work for me. But nothing changes," Hynes told AAP ahead of Saturday night's clash with North Queensland.
"I've been doing it all year. Last year I was in different roles, limited minutes. And I had no real pressure on me.
"This year is just more about getting clarity on what my role is and not worrying about any outside noise and outside pressure."
Not that pressure has seemed to affect Hynes at all this year.
He has answered all doubts over his move to the halfback role, leading the Sharks to their highest ladder position in 23 years.
Only Cody Walker has been involved in more tries than Hynes this season, while Cronulla have scored their most points in a campaign since 2002.
And for dealing with that pressure Hynes believes his three years in Queensland after being cut by Manly following under-20s is a big part of it.
"I think (it helped)," Hynes said.
"If I come out of 20s and went straight into first grade I probably mightn't be able to deal with these sorts of things as much as I did.
"But going and playing against men for a few years and getting away from family and maturing as a human first and then a player second.
"I feel like I've matured a hell of a lot this year as well. Pressure is always going to be there, it's just how you deal with it."
Those years have also given Hynes a fresh look on league compared to most stars who graduated straight into the NRL.
It's also made him realise the importance of life outside playing, studying coaching off the field and becoming notably proactive in organising Sharks' social activities.
"We're pretty privileged to be in the position we are as athletes and there's a lot of people who want to be in our shoes right now," Hynes said.
"I just try and embrace that pressure.
"If I'm sitting there worried about it, that's when I won't be able to perform my best for this team and I need to do that."