St George Illawarra recruit Josh McCrone swears there’s no bad blood with his former NRL club Canberra and is upbeat about reviving his career under Dragons coach Paul McGregor.
Unwanted by Canberra after 133 games with the club, McCrone signed a two-year deal with the Dragons in October, adding depth and versatility to McGregor’s squad with his ability to play halfback, five-eighth or hooker.
The former Temora Dragons junior spent seven years with the Raiders but was keen for a change of scenery after playing just four games in 2015 under coach Ricky Stuart.
“I’m happy Mary (McGregor) has given me the opportunity to come here and start fresh,” McCrone said after Monday morning’s training session in Wollongong.
“After the year I had last year only playing four first-grade games, that’s a bit disappointing for me.
“I know I’m good enough to play more first grade than that, so it’s up to me to put myself in the best position to play more games than that.”
McCrone insisted he had no rift with Stuart and left the club on good terms.
“There’s no drama there,” he said.
“I probably didn’t get the opportunity I would’ve liked last year. They moved on pretty quickly and I didn’t really get much of a chance when Ricky got there.
“But in saying that, that’s his job. He’s the coach and he has to make those decisions, so there’s no hard feelings there at all.”
St George Illawarra, who lost NSW Origin forward Trent Merrin to Penrith, were one of the NRL’s busiest recruiting clubs and look deeper on paper at almost every position.
Tim Lafai, Dunamis Lui, Kurt Mann, Adam Quinlan, Kalifa Faifai Loa and Mose Masoe are amongst those new to the Red V.
Whether they can improve on last season and finish higher than eighth remains to be seen, but McCrone believes the Dragons have every reason to aim high.
Effectively signed as a back-up to experienced halves Gareth Widdop and Benji Marshall and emerging hooker Mitch Rein, McCrone is hungry to prove himself and will embrace any role he is assigned.
“Nothing’s assured here, we’ve got lots and lots of depth in a lot of positions,” the 28-year-old said.
“That three-man core (Rein, Marshall and Widdop) is pretty strong so to crack into that is going to be pretty tough, but you get opportunities in funny ways in rugby league, even that (number) 14 off the bench, that utility value of being able to cover half and hooker.
“My big goal to start off with is to play Charity Shield. I want a crack at that.”
The Dragons will train into next week before taking a 12-day Christmas break.
Life on the coast didn’t take country boy McCrone and his young family long to get used to.
“It’s a really relaxed lifestyle, living only five minutes from training,” he said.
“It’s nice to get up on sunny days like this and head down the beach for a bit of a play around with my young kids. It’s a perfect lifestyle change for us.”