Queensland Reds scrumhalf Kalani Thomas believes the arrival of new coach Les Kiss leaves all positions up for grabs as he presses Wallabies starter Tate McDermott for a starting spot.
Thomas returns to Ballymore high on confidence after his stint with NPC side Auckland.
Initially heading over with no expectations, the 21-year-old found himself a key piece in an All-Black-dominated backline as they made the quarter-finals.
Thomas, whose family is from the north island near Auckland, relished the opportunity to play high-quality Rugby.
“I was super keen to get over there and experience New Zealand Rugby because that was always a goal of mine to test the waters over there," Thomas told Rugby.com.au
“The professionalism of all those All Blacks you get a feel for what it takes to play at a high level for so long.
“My goal going over there was just to prove to myself that I could play at a decent level, because I hadn’t played many minutes at the Reds. Going over there, I was just eager to learn and just play some footy.”
The experience was crucial for his development, starting in seven games, more than he has managed in his three years with the Reds.
This has largely been down to the presence of McDermott, who cemented his spot in the starting side and leadership group of the Wallabies.
However, new coaching staff means new opportunities for players to break through in Thomas' eyes.
“It’s a fresh start so I don’t think there’s any guarantees come next year,” he said.
“If you have a good pre-season, doors can open but that comes with a lot of hard work, keeping your head down and having perseverance.
“We’ve got a Wallaby (Tate McDermott) so we try and learn as much as you can from him and Sam Cordingley who’s a Wallaby himself so there’s a lot experience and talent coming through, I think it’s just pushing each other every day and that’ll bring the best out of each of us.
“We’ve gone in a circle (of) having a good preseason and then falling short in the quarterfinals. With the coaching staff and playing group we have, there’s no reason we couldn’t go all the way but that’s a long way away and we just got to keep winning every day.
“Consistency is a big thing that we struggled with the past three years and I think having that great depth of players and the relationship with the academy group is something that Les Kiss’ big on here so that anyone that steps into the job or on the field can do the job.”