It was a demotion that could have gone sour, but Andrew Fifita has taken to his new bench role better than expected and Cronulla coach John Morris believes it could be crucial in his side's run to the NRL finals.
The representative front-rower hadn't started a game from the bench since 2017 but has played the past three matches via the interchange.
Fifita was immense in Saturday's 42-16 win over the Warriors running for a team-high 199 run metres.
He also busted 12 tackles after missing last week's win over the Dragons with a knee complaint.
"He wanted to play last week but we backed our plan to rest him and we were able to do that and get the two competition points without playing him," Morris said.
"He's going to be in better stead moving forward for the rest of the year," Morris said.
"It's a different role for him because he's used to being a starting player, but he's been really positive and upbeat about his new role in the team.
"If he comes off the bench and gives me 200 metres then I'm happy with that."
Fifita's work off the bench complements what Braden Hamlin-Uele has brought to the side in 2019, with the pair looming large as game-changers in the coming weeks.
Improved fitness has been the key for Hamlin-Uele this year and it showed against the Warriors as the hulking prop tore through the middle to score a barnstorming try.
"He's been outstanding all year and that's been off the back of what he's been able to do off the field. He worked really hard in pre-season and he's been repaid for that now," Morris explained.
"He's always been a little bit overweight and a bit inconsistent last year so he probably didn't consider himself an NRL player.
"This year he's turned the corner, worked really hard off the field and he's got that belief in his own ability and all the boys love playing with him."
Hamlin-Uele will face a sterner test next Sunday when the Sharks host the high-flying Raiders, but his coach has no doubts he'll be ready to match it with their star-studded pack.
"He looks like he's built for that style," Morris said.
"He doesn't take a backwards step and that's what I like about him. He genuinely thinks he'll break the line every team he runs it and that's what you want form your front-rowers."
Australian Associated Press