St George Illawarra might have lost a long list of high-profile NRLW players during the off-season but no one is less worried than reigning Golden Boot winner – and marquee signing – Raecene McGregor.
The Dragons were by far the hardest-hit club in the recent NRLW contracting window, losing a total of 16 players to new clubs including six Jillaroo stars and most recently, McGregor's younger sister Page.
Dragons coach Jamie Soward confirmed on Sunday Kiwi centre, Page McGregor won't take part in this year's NRLW season due to personal reasons.
But as the newly-appointed Dragons skipper, Raecene isn't worried about players been and gone – focusing instead on those set to line up alongside her in 2023, with a squad full of fresh faces and new opportunities.
Perfect Pairs: The McGregors
"I did know that a lot of people were looking elsewhere but that didn’t faze me at all," McGregor told NRL.com about her off-season move.
I didn’t come to the club to play with those people, I came because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, help my family out and enjoy my footy.Dragons playmaker Raecene McGregor
"I know we’ve got a lot of new girls and a lot of young girls but I think it’s just really exciting for us because there’s no egos and we can mould everyone into exactly the way we want to play.
"There’s nobody that has their own style, so that’s really exciting to have that. I know we’ve lost a lot of players but I think we need to look at the ones we’ve gained too."
McGregor, the 2022 Dally M Medal winner and Golden Boot recipient, is one of the NRLW's most decorated players but is set to embark on a new challenge this year, assuming the captaincy duties at her new club.
2022 Dally M NRLW Player of the Year - Raecene McGregor
"People look at me as one of the head leaders there now which is really awesome. I’ve been playing for a long time now so it’s exciting to be able to move into a new role," she said.
"I played my first season at the Dragons before I moved to the Broncos, so it’s a big circle.
"But it was a very different time back then to now. I think the Dragons as a club have come a long way and there’s so many better things in place now.
"I have also come a long way since then and am proud of what I’ve achieved but I think there’s still so much more I can give as a player and as a leader for the next generation of girls coming through."
Following news of Page McGregor's withdrawal from the 2023 competition, Dragons speedster Teagan Berry remains one of few stalwarts to have re-signed with the club this year.
With prop Tara McGrath-West and five-eighth Zali Hopkins the only other players remaining from the Dragons' semi-final loss to the Knights last season, 21-year-old Berry is confident the new-look squad is in good hands under captain McGregor.
Two-try Teagan claims NRLW Player of the Round
"Her leadership is awesome. I don't think I've ever actually played with a halfback that knows so much about the game," Berry told NRL.com. "We've got a lot of new faces and I feel like Raecene is the leader we needed at the Dragons.
"She is really nice and humble but then there's a side to her where she’s challenging us and I love how she gets competitive."
Having played every game on the wing since making her NRLW debut for the Red V in 2020, Berry said plans were in place for a positional change in 2023.
"Last year I was a winger but this season I'm hopefully playing fullback, which is a big step for me because going to fullback, you need a lot more of a skillset for a bigger role," she said.
"It is something I really can't wait to do, especially getting a bit more running time as well.
"I'm still only young, but if I want to play fullback or one of those higher roles, I know I need to communicate better and bring that leadership and I'm working on that."
Match: Knights v Dragons
Round 1 -
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle