By Rachael Price

St George Illawarra Dragons halfback Benji Marshall is thriving in his first pre-season with the Red V.

The New Zealand international, who joined the Club midway through last season, is determined to build on field combinations with his fellow teammates and is looking forward to learning about the new recruits.

The 29-year-old has taken younger players including Euan Aitken and Drew Hutchison under his experienced wing and hopes he can pass on knowledge to the up-and-coming Rugby League players.

“I haven’t this good about pre-season training for a long time; I’m going in leaps and bounds with my fitness,” said Marshall.

“A lot of things have been changed regarding training since we’ve had the new coaching staff, but it’s definitely been for the best.

“Although pre-season training is tough it has been refreshing and we’re focusing on improving ourselves, personally and as a team.

“Coming in half way through the year I didn’t get the opportunity to build relationships and combinations on the field as well as I would have hoped.

“As the season went on, I improved on the field and built those combinations; after Mary took over we gained a new focus.

“This pre-season is allowing me to get to know everyone and work on those strong on field relationships that will help when we’re out there playing.

“I think if we can continue our form from the back end of our season into the coming season we will be in for a big year in 2015.

“Pre-season is very demanding, mentally and physically, the expectations of being a professional NRL player have continued to get higher and higher.

“I’m feeling the impact of training most days but I know that what we’re working on now is going to benefit us next year and that’s what matters.

“We have a lot of young guys coming up through the ranks who are working hard and building up in the gym and their attitude to training has been great to see.

“I thought that being the jokester of the team it would put a lot of the younger guys off coming to me for help, but they aren’t phased and I love having the chance to share my experiences.

“I think this is a new era for the Club; we have some size around the place, we have some fresh faces and with what we’ve lost I think we’ve gained with the guys who have joined us.”