St George Illawarra Dragons utility Josh McCrone will make the most of any opportunity afforded to him to play at halfback in 2017.
The Temora Dragons junior, who can play in the halves as well as hooker, is one of several candidates vying for the vacant role and partnering captain Gareth Widdop in the halves.
McCrone notes that it was unfortunate timing for fellow halfback contender Drew Hutchison to sustain an ACL injury prior to the holiday period which will see him now miss at least six months of action.
However, McCrone, who played alongside Hutchison in the Illawarra Cutters NSW Cup and NRL State Championship silverware double, believes his teammate will return stronger from the setback.
“I haven’t known Drew for too long but this has been the best shape that he has been in and kicked a field goal to lead us to two grand final wins as halfback,” said McCrone.
“That’s an enormous effort for a 21-year-old and he was looking good for Round 1.
“Unfortunately, one door closes for him but another one opens for me and for anyone else who can put their hand up to play in the halves.
“We need to take the positives out of this negative and Drew is a young guy who will come back fitter and stronger out of that.
“I thought I had been training very well and posed as good competition for Drew before he went down so there is now extra motivation to try and get that role and the responsibility that comes with it.
“I’m glad I was given the opportunity to start the pre-season three weeks after the other boys as the body is sore but I’m getting through it.
“Conditioning does take its toll the closer I get to being thirty and the hamstrings get sore but it’s to be expected during pre-season.
“However, I think all the blokes that returned the same time I did have really lifted the intensity as everyone is hungry for success at the highest level.
"It’s been a noticeable difference with the boys who have come up from the NYC as well as those promoted from the Cutters have entered with a spring in their step and everyone else has had to match them.”