If Sunday's performance against West Coast is a pre-cursor of what's ahead, dropping Izak Rankine late last season could be the best thing Gold Coast does for his career.
On the back of a strong pre-season, Rankine played arguably his best game in SUNS colours against the Eagles, kicking four goals from 23 disposals that included a match-high 11 score involvements.
All the flair and cheek that characterised his game in 2020 was back, along with taking easy options that put his teammates in better positions.
The 23 disposals was a career high and showed an improved workrate.
Speaking to AFL.com.au, Rankine said being dropped ahead of round 20 last season allowed him to freshen up physically and mentally.
"That was an internal decision made by myself and Stuey (Dew) and the club to take some time off footy," Rankine said.
"Obviously it didn't turn out how I wanted. I wanted to play twos for a while, but all the boys got locked down in Melbourne.
"I was up here enjoying time to myself at the back end of the season. I think it was a good refresher.
"I had a really good pre-season and now I'm excited for the year ahead."
Rankine got just 10 minutes at VFL level before a match against Southport was cancelled due to a COVID outbreak that forced Queensland into a snap lockdown and the SUNS into a Melbourne hub.
The 21-year-old ticked every box over the pre-season and is among the lead group of runners at the club.
He was taken at No.3 in the 2018 NAB AFL Draft and has had the spotlight on him ever since.
After missing the 2019 season with repeated hamstring problems, Rankine has now kicked 32 goals from 31 career games, despite always having the opposition's best small defender placed on him.
He said the attention was "frustrating" but something he was learning to deal with.
"You learn a lot about yourself, and you learn a lot about the game and what it demands and how physical it is and how challenging it can be at times," he said.
"If you look at patterns of superstars and players that have gone through the system, it takes three or four years to get a grip of that and get an understanding of yourself and the game.
"We've regathered over the off-season and then the pre-season and put in a good plan to go about my business.
"I think I'm ready and I think this year is going to be a good one for myself personally and for the team."