The smile is back. So, too, the flair that marked Dragons fullback Cody Ramsey's explosion on to the NRL scene in 2020.
The pride of Molong was a breath of fresh air at the NRL Nines, while his two tries on NRL debut that year was something to salvage from a forgettable campaign on the team front.
Things were looking up, but the 22-year-old is the first to admit 2021 was a harsher lesson in the week-to-week realities of elite competition.
It looked as of it could continue into his third season where he was beaten to his preferred No. 1 jumper by Tyrell Sloan before picking up a hamstring injury in round three.
Fellow young gun Mat Feagai made a fine fist of the left-wing spot in his absence, leaving Ramsey to forge a comeback path through NSW Cup.
His attitude to that played a big part in Anthony Griffin's determination to give him another opportunity against the Warriors in round 11, a jumper he's yet to surrender.
It wasn't quite now or never, but Ramsey's aware NRL opportunities are finite.
"I know I've had a couple of opportunities at it now but I just ran with this one and that's how it went," Ramsey said.
"Last year I had a few injuries and it just didn't really pan out well for me.
"After I did my hamstring [this year] and got put back down to NSW Cup, I went and spoke to Hook (Griffin) and said 'I'll earn my spot back'.
"That's what you have to do in this league. If something happens and someone fills in your spot and plays better football than you, tough luck.
"(Mat) Feagai was playing really well on the wing and they had that team set. I just had to dig deep and earn my stripes again."
It wasn't easy to cop, but Ramsey feels the time in NSW Cup proved a blessing in disguise, allowing him recapture confidence that admittedly copped a whack last season.
"I think it did me a world of good going back down there and playing good football," Ramsey said.
"That's all I needed to do, play some good football and [remind myself] I can actually do it and that I'm here for a reason.
"I struggled a bit with that last year. I was coming into games thinking 'I'm going to get smashed' but it's starting to gel for me now.
"I definitely don't want to give this spot up, but you're only as good as the week ahead. I'm still young, I still make a lot of mistakes but I just need to perfect that role.
"I've still got a long way to go attacking and defensive-wise, but I think I'm starting to do that."
The third fullback Griffin's used this season - after Sloan and Moses Mbye - Ramsey will be looking to stay in the No. 1 for the remainder of the season.
It's a campaign suddenly looking up following a first-half demolition of the Rabbitohs in Wollongong last start. They'll return to WIN Stadium this week to host the Raiders.
"I think we showed we can really put points on the board," Ramsey said.
"The forwards did an outstanding job getting to the right spots and getting those quick play-the-balls and good field position.
"It was really good, especially after [the previous week] where our attack just wasn't there and we didn't gel as we would have liked.
"A better second half would've been nice but we just need to keep that going."
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