Brumbies prop Allan Alaalatoa saw things from a different side in 2016 and his newfound versatility could help him partner up with long-time friend Scott Sio.
Originally a loosehead, Alaalatoa was second in line behind Sio at the Brumbies in 2016 but featured at tighthead for the Wallabies in the back end of the year, which could lay the groundwork for a Sio-Alaalatoa partnership at Super Rugby.
It was that switch that Alaalatoa said had influenced him most during his first Wallabies stint.
“The main thing was just moving to the other side of the scrum for me, playing all my Super Rugby at loosehead and trying to transition over to tighthead was probably the biggest change for me but something I'm looking to develop over the next few years,” he said.
Nine Tests in 2016 has only whet Alaalatoa’s appetite for Test rugby, with his focus on earning a national spot with strong Super Rugby form.
“We've got a lot of a younger squad this but it's very exciting for us. With the Wallaby background, it's made me a lot more hungry to be there again,” he said.
“To be able to perform at Super Rugby that's what you have to do to get that chance to pull on that jersey. - Allan Alaalatoa
With Stephen Moore and David Pocock gone from the Brumbies’ forward pack, Alaalatoa said there was a handful of players taking a more prominent role on and off the field, including Sio.
“In terms of the forwards, we have big Scotty [Sio] there who hasn't really been in a leadership role before and he's stepping up with a voice,” he said.
“With the backs you have Tevita (Kuridrani) and Henry (Speight) who don't normally say anything but now are in the leadership crew so I think it gives those guys who've been around for a while an opportunity to step up and lead a group that's obviously very young.
“Obviously everyone's just very excited to play so I think in terms of the forwards our game's always been very forward dominated but all the excitement comes from the backs.”
Alaalatoa is hoping to be fit for Saturday’s trial against the Waratahs, with a slight hamstring twinge holding him back.
One player who is looking to use the preseason as a springboard to a Super Rugby spot is former Queensland backrower Lolo Fakaosilea.
The youngster had an injury-hampered 2016 but wants to find a spot in the Brumbies’ intimidating backrow in 2017.
“I'm feeling pretty good,” he said.
“I'm just going to keep working hard, I'm here to prove a point, just to earn my right get the spot.”
The Brumbies take on the Waratahs at 6pm on Saturday night at Mudgee.