By Rachael Price
St, George Illawarra Dragons captain Ben Creagh is excited to welcome all the new faces into the squad and is looking forward to building strong foundations alongside them during pre-season training.
The Dragons commenced their pre-season conditioning and field training earlier in the week with the full-time team comprising of several new additions to the squad.
Creagh, 29, concedes that while one notable absentee is former teammate Brett Morris, who requested an early release from his current contract, he understands his reasons for doing so and is supportive of his friend’s decision.
“There have been plenty of changes over the off-season; not only do we have some new faces in the team but our facilities at WIN Stadium have been upgraded too,” said Creagh.
“Our gym in Wollongong has been the same for a very long time and it’s nice to see a bit of a change around the place.
“I’m very close friends with Brett Morris and it was sad to see him go but he made the decision that he wanted to finish his career with his brother and none of us hold it against him.
“We can’t replace someone like Brett Morris, he’s one of the best wingers in the world.
“We get to give young guys to play first-grade for the Dragons and there’s some great talent in our Under 20s side and we’re preparing some very skilled players for next year.”
The University of Wollongong junior is excited to see many new recruits among the ranks of the Red V including Rulon Nutira, Eto Nabuli and George Rose.
“There have been a lot of changes and many new players have joined the side but the main group of guys who finished the season are all here; our halves, our fullback, lock and forward pack and I think that’s the most important element for next year,” said Creagh.
“During games last season we found that we struggled when we played against some of the bigger forward packs so having a few solid guys on our frontline will definitely help next season.
“I’m enjoying getting to know the new guys and it’s good to see some more of the young guys getting an opportunity to show what they can do.
“We were one of the first teams to finish playing at the end of the season so we felt it was logical to be one of the first back in training.
“There were reports at the end of last season about the attitude of our forwards but I don’t think attitude has ever been a problem in the forward pack.
“There was a time when we had seven losses in a row and confidence was down, as you’d expect, but that doesn’t mean players weren’t trying hard, we were all struggling on and off the field.
“When Mary took over we found a bit more belief and in the last half of the season we really showed what we could achieve as a team.”
Creagh is additionally enthusiastic about halfback Benji Marshall and is looking forward to seeing him grow during his first preseason with the Red-and-Whites.
“It’s going to be exciting to see what Benji will achieve next season once he has a full preseason with us under his belt,” said Creagh.
“He admitted that he started off a bit slow when he first arrived, but you can’t blame him when he just changed codes halfway through the season.
“It took him two or three games to find his groove again but in those last four games we saw some of his best footy for us and that’s really exciting.
“To have a full preseason with the team and with Gareth after Christmas will really allow him to get to his best with the Dragons.
“The combination between Gareth and Benji will only strengthen throughout preseason training and that will give us confidence heading into 2015; we hope we will be playing Finals footy next year.
“He sells himself short a bit when it comes to his form; he’s only 29 and the magic is still there in his game, I’m sure a fitter, faster and more confident Benji will only be positive for the club.
“Georgie Rose is used to temperatures a bit cooler than what we have here at training and he walked into a beep test this morning so I’m not too sure how happy he is about that.
“It’s great to have a guy like him here; he’s played over 140 first-grade games, played in Grand Finals, he’s played for Manly and Melbourne and we need that kind of experience here at the club.
“It’s good to have a few more older guys in the side too, they can really pass on their experiences to the young guys coming up through the ranks.”