Penrith winger Josh Mansour says he lost his desire to play during his troubled start to the NRL season and being dropped by coach Ivan Cleary was a blessing in disguise.
Mansour made the candid admission having helped reignite the Panthers' season with three straight wins, and said he was beginning to feel like his old self.
The former NSW and Australian winger was dropped along with Reagan Campbell-Gillard for the Panthers' round 10 loss to the Warriors.
Since he returned, the Panthers have won three on the trot against Parramatta, Manly and an under-strength Sydney Roosters.
"I did definitely lose my hunger and desire to play football," Mansour said.
"I was battling an injury which really got into my head. But I can't use it as an excuse."
Mansour admits he battled a crisis of confidence after suffering a shoulder injury in round one and while he only missed one week, it didn't allow him to play what he considered his best football.
Throughout his career, Mansour has adopted a mentality that hard work fixes everything, but during his slump he found things only got worse the harder he pushed himself.
"I just believe the harder you work, the more results you get," Mansour said.
"But I felt like the harder I worked, the hole was getting bigger for myself. That was a bit frustrating up until when I got dropped to reserve grade.
"I wanted to make a point and play good footy. I believed I should be playing NRL footy, I didn't think my career was done."
He says being dropped helped snap him out of his lull.
And after being bottom of the ladder just four weeks ago, Cleary's mountain men are now just two points behind eight-placed Parramatta.
"The biggest thing we lacked was teamwork," Mansour said.
"(Against Parramatta) our main objective was to go out there and play for each other and I felt we did that. We definitely turned a corner.
"We feel more connected as a team.
"It did look dark six weeks ago.
"We also believed we had the team to make a finals push. It didn't start the way we wanted and every game from here on in is important to us."