St George Illawarra Dragons Head Coach Paul McGregor believes that there is greater balance within the first-grade playing ranks when compared to this time last pre-season.
McGregor, who is presently overseeing his second pre-season in charge, is pleased with the work rate shown by the current playing squad as well as the talent and depth for positions also on display.
The Red-and-Whites have recently concluded their first phase of pre-season training and conditioning and will recommence their preparations for the campaign ahead early in January.
“It’s been a big few months for the players and they have worked hard since returning from a good season 2015,” said McGregor.
“I think the balance across the team is a lot better than it was at this time last year.
“We have a lot of experience across different positions which we weren’t fortunate to have the year before.
“I think all that stems well for a group of men that know they have competition for spots as I think when you have that then you have accountability within the group.
“It certainly means all the players do that little bit more at training and work that little bit harder for one another knowing there are a few positions up for grabs.
“It’s interesting to see where our depth was and is now in key positions especially in the backline as well as up front.
“I think that is the key to success to be honest having depth within the squad and when we lost a few of those games on the trot last season that was something which was missing.
“When we suffered from numerous injuries during that period we were unable to sustain the level of rugby league that we had been accustomed to playing earlier on in the campaign.
“I think the team we have here is definitely a step in the right direction and a process which is ongoing.
“We have had an 18-man turnaround between last season to now which is a lot when we have 36 players in total but I standby that the balance is better now than it was before.”
McGregor has identified prop Russell Packer as one of the standout performers of the most recent eight-week pre-season training bloc but is well aware that the former New Zealand international still requires further preparation before any return to the field is made.
“The work that Russell has put in and how much his life has changed these past 18 months is on show for everyone to witness,” said McGregor.
“There is still work that needs to be done with him given he has not played NRL in two years but he is working hard towards being in the best shape he can possibly be to make that opening round team.
“He has been a leader on the field and has been a valuable mentor to the younger players within the ranks.
“He knows what he needs to improve upon between now and the opening round whistle and I am confident he will achieve just that.”