Matt Dufty ensured he will start the NRL season with the St George Illawarra No.1 on his back after starring in the Red V's scratchy 24-18 win over Hull FC at ANZ Stadium.
While the Dragons suffered ring rust in their first game of the pre-season, Dufty outshone Paul McGregor's star recruits Ben Hunt and James Graham in their first outing for the joint venture.
In just 70 minutes of game time against the English Super League outfit, the 22-year-old speedster ran for 200 metres and made two line breaks in a stand-out performance.
After debuting in round 20 last year, and getting a taste of NRL in the last seven games of the season, he reinforced his star qualities and his place as Josh Dugan's long-term replacement as the Dragons' fullback.
His scything run set up Tim Lafai's try before having a hand in Jason Nightingale's go-ahead four-pointer in the 27th minute.
He showed he wasn't afraid to chime into the back line and on several occasions gave the Dragons another ball-playing option, a dimension they haven't had since the departure of Darius Boyd.
"He's exciting," Dragons coach McGregor said of Dufty.
"He's had a really good pre-season, much better than his previous one. He's a player that we're looking forward to seeing the best out of this year.
"He's at a nice age, speed is his asset.
"First game of the year, he did what he needed to do to get a start next week."
Hunt showed promise in his first hit out in the Red V, with Lafai and Jeremy Latimore almost scoring off his boot in the first half.
Two tries to former Gold Coast half Albert Kelly ensured Hull took a 12-10 lead into the break and after Liam Watts barged over with 24 minutes remaining to make it 18-18, the visitors were threatening to steal it.
After Hunt, Dufty, Gareth Widdop and Cameron McInnes were taken off for the final 10 minutes, it was left to utility Kurt Mann to save face, diving over for a soft try to seal the victory.
Graham was mixed in his 25 minute stint, dropping the ball inside his own half early but was otherwise solid, making 32 metres from four runs and 12 tackles.
McGregor said he was alarmed by his side's lack of line speed at times.
"We worked extremely hard on working off our line, absorbing pressure through line speed, it was something we pulled back in the second half," he said.
"We didn't have it early."