Jordan McLean's six super weeks of form to finish last season has North Queensland Cowboys powerbrokers convinced that the Kangaroos prop is set to start 2019 on fire as the club targets a return to finals football.
Cowboys assistant coach Josh Hannay has also noted how McLean, now fully recovered from an ankle injury that led to him missing 14 games last year, is talking more at training and taking on more of a leadership role as he settles in to life in Townsville after five seasons at the Melbourne Storm.
McLean averaged 155 metres per game in the final six rounds of 2018 and was key in four Cowboys wins.
McLean, in cahoots with Jason Taumalolo and a revitalised Matt Scott, played a major role in steamrolling the opposition when coach Paul Green was able to bring him back on for the final quarter of the game. His performance in the team's 34-30 win over the Broncos, where he was unstoppable on his way to running for 195 metres, was his best.
"I thought Jordan was really strong for us at the start of last year before he got hurt, but at the back end of the year, in tandem with Matt Scott, he went to another level," Hannay told NRL.com.
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"I just feel as though he is going to start the year off the way he finished last year where he was in phenomenal touch for us, and I think that is all about settling in.
"No matter how good a player you are it still takes times to feel comfortable and fit in with your new surroundings and I just feel that 12 months on Jordan looks like Townsville is home for him now and he is speaking up a lot more on the training field.
"He's come to us from a really strong club obviously and already had all the good habits you hope for in an NRL player. He prepares himself really well and sets really high standards for himself. That is always a good thing when you get a new player who you don't have to coach that into."
The Cowboys played the last two seasons with virtually one hand tied behind their backs. There were the lengthy absences of Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott in 2017 and then last year Michael Morgan and McLean both missed significant slabs of the season.
They were notably a better outfit when McLean returned for the final six rounds.
"He complemented Jason Taumalolo and all the other forwards by adding a different dimension to our pack," Hannay said.
"A lot of our middles are quite stocky in build but Jordan is that big, tall athletic front-rower and gets around the park really well.
"It is no fluke he is an Australian front-rower and I'd say he is a really strong chance of getting his first taste of Origin footy this year. He is still relatively young and has his best football in front of him."
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McLean won a World Cup with the Kangaroos but is yet to represent the NSW Blues, a scenario he hopes to rectify this year. Getting in a full season with the Cowboys will help towards that end.
"It would be nice to play a few more than 10 games and hopefully the rest will take care of itself after that," McLean said.
"We had an emerging camp and [Brad Fittler] let everyone know what was expected of them if they want a [Blues] jumper. Hopefully throughout the year I can do my job, and if it leads to that I'll be very happy."
McLean is one of several experienced Cowboys keen to take on more of a leadership role in the wake of Johnathan Thurston's retirement.
"Hopefully it comes naturally," McLean said.
"I think there is probably room for a few boys to step up with Johnno leaving."