By Jack Brady
Experienced St George Illawarra Dragons captain Ben Creagh has claimed the current player exodus, headlined by the departure of New South Wales and Kangaroos winger Brett Morris, is not a foreign ordeal for the club.
Creagh recalled a changing of the guard in 2009, when Brisbane mentor Wayne Bennett replaced outgoing Dragons coach Nathan Brown, which led to premiership glory only 12 months later.
Internationals Josh Morris, Jason Ryles and Mark Gasnier (though Gasnier returned in 2010) said their goodbyes when Bennett initially took over, along with other established first-graders Simon Woolford, Kirk Reynoldson and Ben Rogers.
With internationals Michael Weyman, Jeremy Smith, Luke Priddis and Neville Costigan coming to the club as replacements for Bennett's first season in charge, Creagh has drawn confidence in comparisons to the 2015 crop of recruits.
"Wayne did let a lot of players go. Guys like Jason Ryles and Josh Morris, they were two quality players here at the club, which Wayne made the decision to let go before he came," Creagh said.
"I have seen [the huge player turnover at the club] before so it isn't the end of the world."
In comparison, the current exodus from the famous Red V jersey doesn't appear as drastic.
While the departures of representative trio Morris, Kyle Stanley and Bronson Harrison alongside Jack Stockwell and Jack Bird are sure to hurt, the nucleus of the 2014 side remains.
With their spine still very much intact and key forwards Trent Merrin, Jack de Belin and Tyson Frizell remaining, Creagh is excited about the influx of recruits and the opportunities they could be awarded at the club.
"I don't know too much about the [new recruits] yet but I'm sure we will once we start the season," Creagh said.
"Now we have young guys getting opportunities... and others who have been playing reserve grade around the country who will get a chance to have a full pre-season with us and get a chance to play next year."
With the Dragons 2015 signings headlined by premiership-winning duo George Rose and Heath L'Estrange, the club will also welcome Warriors under-20s premiership winning back-rower Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard and halves Beau Henry and Kris Keating.
The arrival of Rose and L'Estrange had the Dragons captain keen to tap into their experience, and he said he would encourage his teammates to do the same.
"I think it is good having a guy like George Rose in our side. He has over 140 first grade games," said Creagh.
"He's played in grand finals, and for Manly and Melbourne, and I suppose a bit of experience is what we need to help out guys like myself and the young guys coming through.
"Even guys like Heath L'Estrange... it is good to have an experienced hooker come into the side and help the likes of Craig Garvey and Mitch Rein, I suppose help them keep developing which is something they haven't had in the past few years."