By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop has backed St George Illawarra recruit Kurt Mann to complement the Red V's spine when the duo take on their old Melbourne Storm teammates on Monday night.
Mann's inclusion at fullback has caused a backline shuffle for the Dragons with Josh Dugan and Tim Lafai making up a new-look centre pairing for the club, with Euan Atiken pushed out to the right wing.
Widdop put his stamp of approval on the 23-year-old Mann, who made his NRL debut for the Storm two years ago.
"He'll be good, mate. He's a completely different player to what Duges is but he's quick and agile, has quite a good passing game on him which certainly will help. These days fullbacks are an extra ball player for creating opportunities," Mann told NRL.com.
"He'll be a huge asset for our team. He was down in Melbourne when I was there so I've seen and know what Kurt's been about for a while now. He works hard, trains hard and he deserves his call up."
The Dragons kicked off last year with two straight losses – their lack of point scoring ability proving a kryptonite of theirs throughout the 2015 season.
To put into perspective the Red V only scored 20-plus points on eight occasions last year – while wooden spooners Newcastle managed the feat 16 times.
Widdop said the recent acquisition of assistant coach Jason Demetriou would be the catalyst for the Dragons' attacking revival, with the former North Queensland assistant playing a part in the Cowboys' premiership campaign.
"We have been working extremely hard, and with the introduction of Jason Demetriou he has certainly helped us a lot," Widdop said.
"Things take a bit of time until you start playing week-in, week-out and getting into the rhythm of things but I'm certainly very confident in what we have been practising.
"He's been really good for us, obviously coming from such a successful club like the Cowboys. Everyone knows what they did last year. He has a lot of knowledge and keeps things quite simple for players which will be good for us."
As for Melbourne, Widdop is expecting "the same old" from his old club.
"They're a tough, grinding team who are so well drilled for the entire 80 minutes," he said. "For us to get the win we need to be in it for the entire game."