Darcy Swain used his enforced layoff from the NRC season to supercharge his tilt for a permanent place in the Brumbies' 2020 pack.
Swain captained the Vikings throughout the early stages of their NRC campaign before being sidelined by a broken thumb, missing the club's charge to the final against the Western Force in Perth.
After undergoing surgery, Swain admitted he had a "rough three weeks" watching his teammates push for the title but made the most of his time, hitting the gym in a bid to be at his best when the Brumbies returned for the pre-season.
"I'm fine now, I had a bit of a rough three weeks there watching the boys but it was an opportunity to do some stuff away from rugby - get in the gym and do a couple of things," Swain said.
"I've used that as an opportunity to get better, so I'm happy to just be back and ripping in now."
The Brumbies are among the teams to be affected by the exodus of Wallabies players following the World Cup, with senior players including flyhalf Christian Lealiifano and flanker David Pocock leaving the fold.
But it's the departure of experienced locks Rory Arnold and Sam Carter that has left an opening for Swain to become a Super Rugby regular, something the Brumbies believe he can do after extending his contract to 2022 earlier this year.
Swain too is looking to take a step up, using the leadership experience he gained in the NRC to continue to be a senior presence in a relatively young team.
"I think there's a good vibe this year, a young demographic across the group so everyone's trying to prove themselves and rip in," Swain said.
"It's definitely different (without Carter and Arnold here). You look to ask a question and they're not here anymore.
"I guess I took for granted the experience of Carts and the abrasiveness of Rory (Arnold) and I'm trying to incorporate that into my own game now and become a bit of a leader myself.
"I look to older guys too and when "Pistol" Pete Samu comes back, he's someone I look up to too as well as Bobby (Rob Valetini), who's quite young and a bit cheeky sometimes but Bobby's a bit of a leader too."
With Swain and Blake Enever calling lineouts, the pair has emerged as leaders in a young Brumbies side early in the pre-season.
"It was nothing official, myself and Blake Enever call lineouts so we had a bit of a responsibility to get knowledge across the group and be a character within ourselves to the boys don't go missing," Swain said.
"Being firm there and being able to lead my own pack … is really going to benefit us in the long-term coming into next season."
Swain hopes his efforts will count as he battles with Enever and Murray Douglas, currently overseas on a short-term deal with Edinburgh, for a starting spot in the second row.
"Obviously with Carts and Rory having left now … it's good competition (for that starting spot), so I think it's going to be hugely important for myself just to put my head down and keep working hard.
"There's a few things I still need to do and I need to get better at too, so I'm just working away day by day."
The Brumbies kick off their Super Rugby season with a home match against the Reds on January 31.