Kurtis Patterson admits he got distracted by trying to push for a Test spot last summer but insists lessons from that can help reignite his push for a place in Australia's middle order.
The fight for Ashes spots will heat up dramatically on Wednesday, with the first full round of Sheffield Shield matches this summer. NSW host their first of three matches against Victoria as both commence their seasons, while Queensland take on Tasmania and Western Australia host South Australia.
Travis Head is likely to earn a recall at No. 5, after Matthew Wade was dropped at the end of last summer. But Patterson remains on the fringes as one of the next best options for Australia.
A centurion in his most recent Test in 2019, Patterson was one of the men to miss out when Warner and Steve Smith returned for the Ashes two years ago.
He fell out of the selection window when he missed the majority of the next season through injury, before a disappointing campaign last summer.
"I was certainly guilty last year of falling into that trap of trying to prove things to people or trying to prove things to myself," Patterson said. "I'm never my best when I'm in that in that mindset. I lost sight of that a little bit, got caught up with other things and Australian selection.
"But like always I think those tougher times throughout your career always offer really good opportunities to learn and I did that last year."
Patterson, now married and expecting his first baby with partner Jocelyn, believes a more mature outlook away from cricket will also help.
The 28-year-old said he won't play with Australian selection front of mind, instead hopeful that he can earn a recall with a weight of runs.
"I obviously want to play for Australia, there's no doubt about that," Patterson said. "And I think I'm good enough to do so, but I also know where I stand. I'm coming off a pretty lean season. But I also know from my previous experience how quickly it can change with a couple of timely hundreds."
Patterson - now NSW's full-time captain after filling in for Peter Nevill previously - backed Blues quick Sean Abbott for a Test debut. James Pattinson's retirement last week moved Abbott one step closer as a back-up option with the ball.
"His bowling has been Test quality for at least two or three years now. He had his breakout season last year with the bat," Patterson said of Abbott. "He's got better both with the bat and the ball this pre-season. He's a fantastic cricketer and all forms, he'd be a top-five fielder in the country as well."