By Nathan Davis
St George Illawarra Dragons National Youth Competition centre Euan Aitken has expressed his desire to cement his spot in the first-grade squad this season.
The Dragons NYC ‘Player of the Year’ is in the mist of his first pre-season with the full-time first-grade squad and is looking forward to the opportunity to train alongside the team’s senior players.
The Junior Kangaroos representative is aware that if one such senior player, Josh Dugan, shifts to the fullback role an opportunity at three-quarters may become available but is aware that he needs a strong pre-season to be in contention.
“My goal for next year is to push for a spot into first grade, if not hopefully make it into the Cutters and play some good footy,” said Aitken.
“If Josh Dugan does go to fullback, it opens the centre spot right up so I definitely have to compete for that and while there is a pecking order, I’m going to try and change that around.
“We have some good talent in this side including Josh Dugan, Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop so it’s going to be good to play alongside those guys.
“This is my first chance I’ve got to train with the top squad, it’s a great opportunity.
“Pau McGregor has thrown me in with the big boys, which is exciting.”
Aitken is one of several members of the Young Dragons squad invited to train alongside the first-grade squad and he is additionally joined by mentors Dean Young and Ben Hornby.
The latter duo were both promoted to the positions of NRL Assistant Coaches during the off-season having overseen the Young Dragons in 2014.
“Having two familiar faces around in Dean and Ben, and being with them in the Under-20s has helped me ease into my new surrounding a lot more easily,” said Aitken.
“They were both a big help to improvements in my game last season and I will take on board any constructive advice they pass on to me.
“I’ve been looking to earn some respect from the playing group coming up from the Under 20’s.
“So far it’s been a good experience and I am excited for next year."