St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor won’t pick players on reputation as the Dragons aim for a return to the NRL finals in 2016.
The Dragons ran hot and cold throughout last season, winning games perhaps they should not have and losing matches they probably should have won.
It was enough to claim the final spot in the playoffs and an elimination semi-final clash with Canterbury.
The Dragons went agonisingly close to pulling off an upset before Bulldogs playmaker Josh Reynolds kicked a golden-point field goal to secure an 11-10 win.
The fleeting foray into the final series has armed the Dragons with plenty of incentive to journey deeper next season.
“We left everything out there and it was a disappointing loss,” rising star Tyson Frizell said of St George Illawarra’s finals heartbreaker against the Dogs.
“We’re back and ready to go and we can take a lot of positives out of where we’ve come from as a group.
“We’ll work as hard as we can in the pre-season and, hopefully, that hard work translates into success during the season,” Frizell said.
Aside from the off-season departure of representative back-rower Trent Merrin and Fijian winger Eto Nabuli, the Dragons have kept their playing roster largely intact.
McGregor has also bolstered his squad with recruits Kurt Mann, Russell Packer, Josh McCrone, Dunamis Lui, Mose Masoe, Kalifa Faifai Loa and Siliva Havili.
“There’s a lot of spots up for grabs and Mary’s (McGregor) told us that no spot is safe in the team,” Frizell said after Friday’s training session at a sun-soaked WIN Stadium.
“We’ve got a lot of new faces that should come in and do a good job, and there’s a couple of big boys in the team.
“Sitting at home, you get a bit nervous about the pre-season and getting flogged and all that, but it’s all part of it. Mary will probably take it up a notch from last year, which probably needs to happen for us so we can do a lot better next year.”
Frizell and back-row partner Joel Thompson will be expected to shoulder greater leadership responsibility with Merrin gone.
Both are likely to figure heavily in 2016 State of Origin selection discussions if the Dragons are winning.
“Me and Joel are always pushing each other to our best, both individually and for the team,” Frizell said.
“We’re both worried about doing well for the team first and, hopefully, individual goals will get there at some stage.”
Thompson makes no secret of his desire to wear the coveted Blues jersey.
“My goal is to get my body in the best shape and, if it’s in the best shape, I want to be pushing for NSW,” Thompson said.
“It’s definitely a goal and it’s definitely a goal for Frizz. We’ll be pushing each other through this whole pre-season and start of the season.
“I’ll get this body right and give it a good crack.”