By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
There are no prizes for guessing who Joel Thompson can't wait to play against in 2015, but it isn't for the reasons you would first think.
Joel Thompson is most looking forward to heading back down to Canberra to face his former team not because it gives him the chance to size up against his old teammates, or anything to do with any 'hoodoo', which in any case got broken in 2014 when the Red V finally managed a rare win in the nation's capital that was 14 years in the making.
The reason for Thompson's eagerness to face the Raiders is because of his family, who still live in close proximity to the nation's capital.
With his family hardly getting an opportunity to see Thompson play live since he made the move to Wollongong, the chance to play in Canberra is something the 26-year-old now cherishes.
Although he will come up against the majority of his former teammates, and even though he played his part in St George Illawarra's first win in Canberra in 14 seasons earlier this year, family comes first for Thompson.
"I look forward to going back to Canberra and I get to play against some old mates but I really love having a lot of family and friends come out to the game and watch me play," Thompson told NRL.com.
"For me being able to get down to Canberra, it is a good opportunity for them. It is certainly closer for them to come to a game which is always good.
"There's not even banter [between the Raiders boys and I], it is just a game that I get really excited for [because of my family]."
His admiration for his family also shines through on another memorable day that pops up on the Dragons calendar every year – their traditional Anzac Day clash with traditional rivals the Sydney Roosters – which Thompson looked back fondly on.
2014 was Thompson's first taste of the Dragons' annual Anzac Day clash, and labeled it a "special" moment for him to be able to honour his great-grandfather Sergeant Eric Albert Thompson, who fought in World War II with the Australian army.
"It was a surreal moment [getting to play in the Anzac Day game]. I couldn't believe how big it was and how good the crowd was," Thompson said.
"I'm looking forward to playing it again. It was something special and I really loved it. It was good to have a bit of personal passion about it."
While ANZAC Day serves as a memorable day for every Dragons player and fan (and every Roosters player and fan for that matter), Thompson will enter his second year of playing the traditional clash with his great-grandfather surely looking over him.