By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
St George Illawarra mid-season signing Mark Ioane says he was convinced to join the club from the Gold Coast Titans after looking through the sheer amount of experience within the Red V squad.
Given just two days before the June 30 deadline to decide whether a big upheaval to Wollongong was necessary, Ioane and his partner decided a move to the Dragons would only prove beneficial for his career.
Pointing out how his only connection with any player was being educated at Mangere East's De La Salle College in Auckland at the same time as current teammate Leeson Ah Mau, Ioane added how the Dragons prop helped inspired his move from the Titans.
"Leeson was a couple of years older than me and he's leading the forward pack here now. He inspires everyone and especially with him being from Auckland as well, it does inspire me every day and it makes you train hard I guess," Ioane told NRL.com.
"Ben Creagh and Joel Thompson have helped me a lot too. They have walked me through the steps of doing extra efforts off the ball and things like that. Their experience definitely influenced my decision to come here too. I like the way they played.
"Talking to Paul and the coaching staff here, it seemed to be a good environment and the club is generally good so that persuaded me to come here. The Dragons were in contact with my management and when they were talking along the lines of me coming here, it was just a matter of deciding what I wanted."
So down he came, with the aim of securing more NRL football and eventually the club's lock forward role.
With the Titans boasting well above 30 players in their immediate NRL squad, his chance to come to a squad with a reduced number of teammates definitely helped his cause as well.
"There was more of an opportunity to play in the NRL this year basically. With the likes of Ryan James and those boys up there, they are already in the team and I was in and out so I thought I'd try my luck and come to Wollongong and do my best," Ioane said.
"Paul McGregor has helped me out on my game a lot especially. I've developed plenty of little things that I've needed to and I still to improve things so hopefully I do that."
Joining the club officially on July 1, Ioane made his club debut against North Queensland three days after and has played a further two games since.
Named on the bench to play his former Titans team on Sunday, Ioane remains thankful for the Dragons' 10-day camp to Auckland and Brisbane between Rounds 22 and 23, where he was able to bond with his new teammates properly for the first time.
"I definitely felt a lot closer to the boys after being able to mix and mingle with them for 10 days and doing quality sessions in groups and stuff. Training together as well meant that everything was all positive for me," Ioane said.
"Otherwise the Dragons have been awesome. I can't say enough about the club and the players here, it's been good. It's been a thrill ride, I'll say that much. But I've enjoyed it.
"It's been about making the most of my opportunities, that's been the biggest thing, and just staying patient. That's the biggest thing with the NRL, and making sure you believe in your game. It'll take time but hopefully it comes out right."