By Rachael Price

St George Illawarra Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop is ready to take to the field competitively against the Mackay Cutters at Mackay Stadium on Saturday.

After returning to pre-season training only a fortnight ago, the England international is enjoying being back with his teammates and getting to know the new faces among the side.

The 25-year-old is eager to run out with young gun Drew Hutcherson who rose through the ranks from the Dragons National Youth Competition team squad last year.

“The Nines and the Mackay trial are on the same weekend; I think it’s more beneficial for me to play in the trial,” said Widdop.

“We have a lot of new players in the squad and the majority of our first-grade forwards who have experience on the field will be travelling up to Mackay.

“I think it would be a lot of fun and a great experience to play in the Nines, I missed out last year, but at the end of the day it’s what’s best for the team.

“Trial matches are important, they show us everything we’re doing right and where we need to improve before the start of the season.

“It’s good to be back at training; it’s always difficult the first few weeks and especially when the boys have been training the past eight weeks and I’ve only just joined them.

“Training is always hard, but at the same time it’s enjoyable which makes the time go fast.

“I’ve played in Mackay before and it was a great experience; the crowd turned out and showed their support for the game which made it worthwhile.

“Hopefully we get a nice, big crowd and play a good game, trial matches aren’t perfect but it’s a good hit-out for everyone and they show how we’re going.

“Rory O’Brien has really impressed me; he came up last year but now he has a full preseason under his belt, he’s worked really hard at training so I’m sure he’s ready for a big game to stamp his authority.

“I’m partnered to play with Drew Hutcherson in the halves; he’s a great young kid, he came up from the Dragons Under 20s last year into first-grade, he’s always willing to learn and I’m really looking forward to playing with him.”