Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire has left the door open for Josh Reynolds to return to first grade but wants the former Bulldogs playmaker to improve other areas of his game.
Reynolds was left out of Maguire's 17-man side with veteran five-eighth Benji Marshall preferred in the halves alongside Luke Brooks.
He's expected to remain 18th man for the Tigers' season-opener against Manly on Saturday.
Reynolds was restricted to just five games for the joint venture last season and Maguire is likely to name four forwards on his bench.
Maguire told a media conference on Thursday he had no issue bringing Reynolds off the bench in the future, but didn't feel it was the right fit to open the season.
"I've sat down with Josh and looked at his game and I think there's a lot of growth in his game," Maguire said.
"I really like his style, he's a real competitor but there's other things I want him to grow. And also along with his body, he's had some issues with his body over the last couple of years and it's going to take some time.
"I'm very comfortable in bringing him off the bench or starting him. I'll look at performance and that's how I'll judge things moving forward. You've got to have some patience with those sort of things."
Maguire said Reynolds had responded to the selection call positively.
"Very good, he's jumped into his training," he said.
"He's a real competitor and he understands where we are at the moment, and things can change very quickly in this game. We know that and he knows that. It's about just preparing himself.
Wests Tigers teammates rally around Reynolds
"As I said the other day I just want to see him get out and enjoy his football. He's had a couple of tough seasons and has put a lot of work in the background to make sure he can stay on the park.
"That's all in front of him now."
Reynolds wasn't the only first grade regular left out of the starting 17 with Matt Eisenhuth, Jacob Liddle and Chris McQueen joining him on the reserves list.
"There's been some tough decisions with our players and you want to have that as a coach," Maguire said.
"It's about having a competitive squad. One thing about the group though they get around each other and support each other because they understand we've got a full season in front of us and a lot can change in a week in our game. It can change in a day.
"It's about growing this team and making sure we put a strong performance on. We want to set a really good standard this weekend."