Former Sunshine Coast coach Craig Ingebrigtsen has urged Titans coach Garth Brennan not to overlook Ryley Jacks for round one, believing his former No.7 can free up Ash Taylor and bring success to the Gold Coast.
Four years ago, Jacks was playing for the Burleigh Bears in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup and working as a carpenter, convinced that his dream of playing in the NRL was destined to go unfulfilled.
A year under Ingebrigtsen at the Falcons in 2016 exposed Jacks, then 24, to Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy and 25 NRL games later – at a winning percentage of 80% – Jacks is back on the Gold Coast fighting for a spot in the 17-man line-up for round one.
Given the combination he formed with Taylor in the Titans' run to the 2017 finals series, Tyrone Roberts is the frontrunner to start the year in the halves but Ingebrigtsen is adamant Jacks is the player who can unleash Taylor and bring out the best in those around him.
"I just hope he gets an opportunity down there because he deserves one," Ingebrigtsen told NRL.com.
"They need to free Ash Taylor up. They need to let him play footy. He's a very typical touch footy sort of player. He's got plenty of thrills and flair but they need someone who can guide the team alongside him.
"I know Kane Elgey wasn't the one and AJ Brimson is a bit the same, more of a runner, so he's not the one.
"I know Ryley's the one. If they give Ryley an opportunity their team will benefit from that. The Titans would be mad not to use him in the position he should be playing."
That Jacks is in the frame to play NRL at all in 2019 is testament to his work ethic and resilience.
Born in Brisbane, Jacks was a highly-regarded half coming through the Roosters' NYC team but like many his age struggled in making the transition from the under 20s and into the senior ranks.
Playing for Burleigh and completing his carpentry apprenticeship felt like a step back from the glitz and glamour of being in an NRL system.
At the end of the 2015 season he was even having difficulty attracting interest from Intrust Super Cup clubs until Ingebrigtsen lured him to the Sunshine Coast and released the shackles.
"For me coming out of 20s, it was four years of Queensland Cup and by that fourth year I thought I wouldn't play NRL. In my own head I was accepting that at 24 it probably wouldn't happen for me," Jacks revealed.
"You're playing in those big stadiums in the team colours and you think that you're 'this close' to making it but the reality is that you're so far from NRL.
"You start thinking you've gone down a level but really you've gone up.
"When I went to the Falcons in that fourth year 'Trigger' [Ingebrigtsen] was really good.
"He told me to back myself, to forget anything I thought I knew and I stopped caring what NRL clubs thought of me. That's when I got signed."
Over the past two years the Storm – a team admittedly renowned for winning more games than they lose – won 19 of the 24 games in which Jacks started in the halves.
He was forced to bide his time for a month at the start of 2018 as Brodie Croft was preferred as Cameron Munster's halves partner and while he may again have to wait in the wings again to start 2019, his former Falcons mentor hopes Jacks gets his chance sooner rather than later.
"I just think he gives them stability," Ingebrigtsen said.
"Defensively he is very strong and the Titans have leaked a lot of points in the past.
"He's also very good at sensing and working out the opposition. He does a lot of video work on his own. You could sit down and do a lot of video with him but he would then go home and do his own video on the opposition.
"He's worked harder for this than anyone I have seen for a long, long time. He came here thinking his NRL career was done and dusted and no one else wanted him."
Assigned to Tweed Heads Seagulls this year, an ill-timed elbow injury that kept him off the training paddock for three weeks may have given Roberts a head start but Jacks remains hopeful that he will show Gold Coast fans just how far he has come.
"I look back at what I was when I was playing at Burleigh in 2015, what I've learnt in that time has made me a totally different player," Jacks told NRL.com.
"Getting to be in that Storm system for two or three years taught me so much so I feel as though I'm a totally different player to what I was back in '15."