New Dragons recruit Dylan Farrell said family was a key reason for his move south from Redfern, with the centre excited for his first injury-free pre-season in years.
Having grown up in Culburra near Nowra on the New South Wales south coast, and playing junior footy for the Culburra Dolphins, Farrell still has plenty of family down that way – and the opportunity to see them more regularly was a key factor in his decision to leave South Sydney for St George Illawarra.
"I was pretty close to signing with Souths but then the opportunity came up to go to the Dragons, I had a son who was due just in a few months time [at the time Farrell signed] and I already have a three-year-old daughter so it was really just more [about] coming across closer to home and having that extra support," Farrell told NRL.com.
"One of my sisters lives in Figtree [in south west Wollongong] and I've got other family members around Wollongong so the whole reason was just to get closer to home."
Farrell said an extra positive was a first injury-free pre-season for several years, with previous years interrupted by groin surgery, hip surgery and back surgery.
"In the past I've had some surgeries so Round 1 it's felt like I'm catching up to everyone else. So I'm really looking forward to getting a full pre season under my belt," he said.
"When you're in rehab you're watching the boys out on the field, you don't really feel like part of the team so I'm really excited to do that."
The Dragons look to have a settled back three of Josh Dugan, Brett Morris and Jason Nightingale but with Matt Cooper retired and occasional centre Matt Prior gone to the Sharks, Farrell could be in line for a centre position come Round 1 – although with the likes of Gerard Beale, Kyle Stanley and Charly Runciman in the frame Farrell can take nothing for granted.
"There's a lot of competition and that's the best thing for a club – to have competition in each position – so I'm definitely not looking to walk straight into a position. I'll need to work hard for it and I'm definitely keen to do that," Farrell said.
The centre position not only looks to be Farrell's best chance of nailing down a first grade spot, it's also his preferred option. "I'd definitely prefer to play centre but if they want me to play I'm happy to be on the field anywhere," he said.
The Dragons have been one of the most active clubs in the off season player market, with Farrell joined by fellow fresh faces including Raiders Sam Williams and Joel Thompson, Storm and England Test five-eighth Gareth Widdop, Tiger Matt Groat and Warrington Wolves prop Mike Cooper, but Farrell said the new faces seem to have injected plenty of energy already.
"At the moment it's really good... we've had just a few sessions together, we have a really young squad and everyone's really keen to get going. I think everyone's just as excited as each other, even the players that have been here for a while," he said.
Farrell said his personal goals at this stage are just to enjoy the pre season before worrying about what he wants to achieve on the field at his new club.
"At the moment it's just really trying to work hard over the pre season, get as much out of that as I can. Recovery wise, fitness wise, strength wise, rehab wise – everything, just take the most out of it. So that's my number one goal there and then, when we finish pre season I'll start looking towards other things, just playing as many games as I can and trying to stay injury free."