Aquis Gold Coast Titans back-rower Zeb Taia is using the pain of missing his side's finals exit and the lure of a third season on the Gold Coast to come back from off-season groin surgery and reclaim his starting spot in 2017.
Taia fought through a hip flexor injury that developed into osteitis pubis to play every game of the regular season in his first year with the Titans but had to withdraw from the elimination final against the Broncos after succumbing to a quadriceps injury in the warm-up.
Admitting that he was "found out" a week earlier against the Cowboys due to his restricted movement, Taia put the fortunes of the team first in ruling himself out of the do-or-die finals clash but is now using that disappointment as motivation throughout pre-season.
Having turned 32 in October, Taia is desperate to continue his career beyond the 2017 season but at this stage is at the mercy of the Titans who have an option in their favour to keep him on for a third season in 2018.
Now that he is only a week away from resuming contact and being back in full training, Taia is determined to prove to coach Neil Henry that there is plenty of good football in his future.
"I want to be better than what I was last year and I am playing for another contract at the same time," Taia told NRL.com.
"I do have an option there but it's in the Titans' favour but I'm definitely working to activate that option.
"I'm doing whatever I can to get back into full training and impress again for 2017."
The signing of former Storm forward Kevin Proctor to a four-year deal last month puts pressure on the likes of Taia and Chris McQueen to keep their position as an edge back-rower.
The departure of Greg Bird to Catalans opens up a spot at lock forward that Henry has hinted could be filled by either Taia or McQueen and the former Knight said he will be happy to slot in wherever the team needs him.
"I'm going to do whatever is best for the team," said Taia.
"If it does come to that then I think we'd definitely form a really good back row with Chris, Kevin and myself.
"Kevin will definitely get one of the spots so the other [second row] spot is up for grabs but it would be good to keep us all together for sure."
Taia cut a disconsolate figure in the Titans sheds after his side were knocked out of the premiership race in Week One by the Broncos but as much as it hurt, is convinced his decision not to play was the right one.
"I had the groin problem and then something went in my quad and every second stride I couldn't switch on the quad and I kept collapsing and kept collapsing," Taia said.
"I couldn't even do a single-leg squat and that's when I knew I wasn't going to get the strength back to play.
"We kept trying to stretch it and activate it and nothing was happening so I thought I'd make the decision not to take field if I was going to be like that. It wouldn't have been good for the team.
"The last two weeks of the comp I was struggling to get out of first gear and then when it came to game day I was just playing through the pain.
"Against the Cowboys I got found out a little bit with the reaction time and trying to change directions.
"We had a plan in the semi-final to start me off the bench but when we got to game day I struggled.
"It was a bitter pill to swallow but I think I made the right choice for the team at that time."