With his future at the Dragons settled for 2019, Gareth Widdop can be a vital ingredient for St George Illawarra in beating the State of Origin player drain and avoiding another late-season fade-out, according to Tyson Frizell.
The NSW and Kangaroos enforcer is adamant Widdop will have the full backing and best wishes of his teammates whenever he decides to swap the Red V for the Super League.
Widdop has made no secret of the fact he would like to return to his homeland in the coming years but last week moved swiftly to deny reports he had requested an immediate release from St George Illawarra.
The 29-year-old Dragons captain left England at 14 and started his NRL career in Melbourne before joining the Dragons in 2014 and evolving into one of the game's premier playmakers.
"Gareth had never mentioned to us about wanting to go back home but we weren't surprised by it," Frizell told NRL.com.
"He is from England but he has never had the chance to play Super League and I'm sure he'd want to play a couple of years there.
"The main thing is he is here for next year and whatever he does after that we are behind him."
Dragons pleased Widdop commits to 2019
Widdop is contracted until the end of 2021 but it seems likely 2019 will be his last year in the NRL and St Helens have emerged as favourites to land the England international when he does head home.
In the meantime, his 185 games of experience will be pivotal to the Dragons keeping their campaign on track during the demanding State of Origin period when they could lose up to five players, including Frizell and Widdop's halves partner Ben Hunt.
"It's nice to know that when we do go through Origin that Gaz and James Graham are still around," Frizell said.
"Plenty of clubs lose their best players during Origin but our best and most experienced are still playing NRL which is comforting."
Dragons coach Paul McGregor copped criticism for not resting his Origin stars mid-season but Frizell says the onus is on the players to know their body and work with medical staff to avoid burnout.
"Every player is different and I found it hard when I first started in Origin [in 2016] but 2018 was my best year in terms of getting the balance right," Frizell said.
"There's plenty of strain on the body around that time but you need to look at yourself and be honest with the medical staff and go in to each club game knowing you are going to perform as well as were leading into Origin.
"It's hard to point the finger and say it was Origin time that hurt us in 2018 as we ended up only a couple of minutes from making a preliminary final.
Widdop denies he’s leaving the Dragons
"Everyone seems to think we start the year well and die at the back end but I'm sure every team wants to start the year on a high.
"Those credits we built up early kept us in the eight when we had some injuries later in the year."
Frizell says anyone who thinks coach Paul McGregor will be swayed by criticism of his methods had better think again.
"As a player 'Mary' was part of Origin so he knows what is needed and what players need and what it's like," Frizell said.
"He has experienced it and that background at the highest level is a huge bonus for us. Mary won't listen to any of the outside noise and that's why we love him.
"We go hard at this time of the year and put in the work so we can be there at the back end of the season.
"We've got a really happy group and we know we can do something special in 2019."