New St George-Illawarra recruit Kurt Mann has just one fortnight to prove to coach Paul McGregor that he can move his best player out of position for the upcoming NRL season.
The Dragons mentor revealed the former Melbourne utility will spend their two trials at fullback as McGregor weighs up permanently shifting NSW State of Origin star Josh Dugan into the three-quarter line.
Dugan has been rested for Saturday’s Charity Shield against South Sydney but is almost certain to start in the centres in the side’s next warm-up match against the Warriors the following week.
McGregor said the onus is all on the Mann to prove he’s the man.
“He’s going to get an opportunity this game and next game to prove to our club he’s worthy of playing in that position,” McGregor said.
“But I’ll say it again, and I’ll keep saying it, Josh is the current NSW fullback. So someone’s got to play really well in these trials for me to move him, because we’ve got some good centres there as well.”
Mann, who has filled in across almost the entire backline in his 28 games for the Storm, signed on a two-year deal last July and is considered the key to revolutionising the Dragons’ attack.
Only Penrith’s depleted side scored less points than the Dragons in 2015, forcing the Red-V to push hard for a ball-playing fullback that McGregor has craved.
“Because he’s played in the halves most of his career, he’s more of a ball-playing fullback, and that’s where we lacked a little bit of tryscoring last year,” McGregor said.
“He’s very quick across the ground. Defensively he’s getting the read okay at training, so it’s going to be another step up in the game.
“You look at Josh and he’s a big powerful runner, brings the ball back better than most, and he’s got good skills to score.
“Kurt’s more of an opportunity that we can play off Kurt on the back of shifts and more of a Moylan-type of player, than more of a runner.”