Former St George Illawarra international Jason Nightingale has described the Dragons as fit and focused after training with them in preparation for his NRL Nines comeback in Perth.
Nightingale, who retired at the end of the 2018 season, is excited at the opportunity to pull on the Red V jersey again at Optus Stadium next Friday night but he admitted that trying to keep up with his former teammates at training had been tough.
"Physically they look a million dollars," he said. "I've done two sessions with them but just watching them do opposed, they just look really switched on and they are humming in what they are doing.
"It's exciting to see and they look really focused in what they are doing. I have seen them do a lot of goal-line defence and there is a lot of intent in what they do there, and it is good to see that at training because you know that it will transfer to the field because there is an extra lift there.
"They look in top nick and trying to train with them is difficult, as you could imagine."
The former New Zealand winger admits that running wasn't his "exercise of choice" but he has maintained fitness through a regular "twice-per-week retired guy trying not to get skinny routine" in the gym, while running his businesses – Flow Espresso in Kogarah and Elite Athlete Business School.
However, after accepting an invitation from Dragons executive manager of football Ben Haran to play at the Nines he has had to step up his training.
"I was at our Christmas party and Ben Haran floated the idea with me after a beer or two," Nightingale said. "After a couple of beers, you'll probably say yes to anything.
"It was probably a good time for me because heaps of the boys are off over Christmas and they do a little bit of training but not too much and that was where I was at. They still smoked me at everything, but it wasn't too intense."
The 33-year-old bowed out as one of just six players to have played more than 250 premiership matches, 30 Tests and scored more than 100 tries, along with Billy Slater, Bob Fulton, Brad Fittler, Darren Lockyer and Greg Inglis.
However, Nightingale insisted he was not the experienced winger the Dragons want but have so far been unable to find.
"There is still those butterflies and the highs and lows of rugby league – and professional sport, in general – is something that cannot be replicated but I couldn't say I missed it," he said.
"Last year was hard to watch for many reasons and I missed it on game day but that was about it."
Official NRL Travel packages, including NRL Nines tickets, accommodation options and exclusive experiences with NRL Legends can be purchased via www.nrl.com/travel