By Mary Maidiotis
St George Illawarra Dragons second-rower Jack de Belin is enthusiastic about the possibility of more game-time as he lines up against Wests Tigers at Campbelltown Stadium on Monday.
The Cootamundra Bulldogs junior by his own account had a disappointing pre-season after being plagued with injury and missing out on the Charity Shield fixture due to illness, effectively reducing his pre-season program by six weeks.
De Belin, 23, admits he has struggled in previous seasons to find a suitable balance in his weight to allow optimal performance, but believes he is in great form and prepared to match the Tigers forward pack this weekend.
“Personally I’m feeling really good, I didn’t have the best of preseasons or lead-up with the trial games as I was sick and injured, a lot of things didn’t go my way,” said de Belin.
“I was lucky to be healthy for the Warrington game and to get some good minutes churned out against Melbourne, so I’m pretty happy with my form and how I’m feeling at the moment.
“I’m only 23 but for many years I’ve been either putting on weight or losing weight, it’s been difficult finding the weight at which I can play my best footy.
“For a long time I was too heavy and playing really sloppy and getting lethargic easily, and then I lost weight and ended up being too light and getting man-handled.
“I suppose it’s just about finding the happy medium so that once you figure that out, you can build some consistency and essentially, it becomes a base for you to build your game off.
“I know Mary wants me playing bigger minutes and I do too, as that’s where I believe I’m best-suited and I think I play my best football when I’m out there for a longer stretch of time.
“No one really likes playing the Monday night games as it drags the weekend out but in saying that, it’s given us more time to prepare and we’re really ready for them.
“There were really encouraging signs against Melbourne, even though we didn’t get the win.
“They are a great side, yet we managed to hold them to only two tries, we just didn’t execute enough.
“I know a few of us were lost in our roles and the positions we needed to be in but we have tweaked all the little things required and we are really looking forward to it.
“The Tigers have a pretty good side right across the board and I know they have a really strong forward pack with Aaron Woods and Keith Galloway up front, but I know our forward pack and team as a whole are ready to match them, if not better them.”