New St George-Illawarra recruit Tim Lafai says a chance to be mentored by a former State of Origin centre was one of the factors that swayed him to move to Wollongong.
The former Canterbury three-quarter begun training with his new teammates this week after being squeezed out of Belmore due to the arrival of Will Hopoate.
A number of NRL clubs expressed interest in Lafai, but none could offer the knowledge and experience of club legend Paul McGregor.
Considered one of the best centres of his generation, McGregor played 14 games for New South Wales and three Tests for Australia.
“He also used to play his footy in the centres, (so) he’s someone I can see helping me,” Lafai said on Friday.
The 24-year-old spent the majority of last season on his unnatural right side for the Bulldogs, with representative star Josh Morris on the left.
But McGregor is likely to hand Lafai a crack on his favoured edge in place of rookie Euan Aitken, with the talismanic Josh Dugan staying at fullback.
Another new recruit, former Melbourne utility Kurt Mann, is an option, while Dylan Farrell is also understood to still be considering early retirement due to a recurring back injury.
“I prefer left side, but I’ll take anything,” Lafai said.
“There’s some good depth with the backs out there. I’ve got to earn my spot and show the coaches I’m ready for the season.”
The Samoan international initially felt heavy-hearted at being forced out of a club where he scored 30 tries in 74 games since making his debut in 2011.
But after receiving a strong endorsement by former Dragons Brett and Josh Morris, as well as Chase Stanley, he is buoyed by a fresh start.
“They had good feedback on the club. It’s somewhere I could see my footy going forward,” he said.