St George Illawarra will benefit from an influx of new talent, according to hooker Mitch Rein, who says he isn't getting too far ahead of himself despite seeming destined for more responsibility in the absence of fellow hookers Cameron King and Nathan Fien.
The Dragons finished a disappointing 14th in 2013 – winning seven games and losing 17 – but have recruited heavily in the off season, adding Raiders Joel Thompson and Sam Williams, Storm and English Test player Gareth Widdop, British Super League prop Mike Cooper, Rabbitoh Dylan Farrell and Tiger Matt Groat.
"The change will be a good thing for us, there are a lot of new faces and some new coaching staff around. That's what we needed and we're all looking forward to it," Rein told NRL.com.
Despite a pretty fair year on field personally – Rein played 23 of 24 games, making 35 tackles per game in an average of just under 60 minutes per game, with a handful of try assists, line breaks and line break assists – he is far from satisfied with his personal form and says there is plenty he needs to work on to stave off a challenge from 2013 under-20s hooker Craig Garvey.
"Last year was a bit disappointing at the start of the year, I just got off to a slow start, but as the season went on I got a bit more comfortable," Rein says. "I don't know if it was because we'd lost a lot of senior personnel. Last year was a bit challenging but I'm looking forward to next season."
With King and Fien out the frame is he considering trying to become an 80-minute player?
"I don't know – I'd like to do it if the coaching staff need us to, that'd be great. But we've got Craig Garvey coming up from the twenties, he's a good player, he'll be pushing us at training to try and improve," he says, adding: "but it's good to have a bit of competition around for spots."
Hooker isn't the only position that will see some competition – there are as many as four quality players vying for two centre roles in Gerard Beale, Dylan Farrell, Charly Runciman and Kyle Stanley, while the addition of Cooper, Groat and Thompson will ensure plenty of rivalry for spots in the pack.
"We've recruited pretty heavily and there's going to be a lot of competition," Rein says. "The new faces over the next couple weeks [will be] trying to prove to the coaches they'll be ready to go in round 1."
Rein says he has a number of goals for the year but the primary one at this point is to have a big pre-season to prepare for a strong start to 2014.
"If I'm required to play longer minutes, hopefully I'll put myself in a position to be up to scratch if the coaching staff want me to do that. If not, really the first goal is to really rip into training and concentrate on things that I haven't been doing the last couple of years," he says.
"There's a few small things I really want to concentrate on, little personal goals, only small goals moving forward so I can work towards bigger goals in the end. Just small things, even around training, if I can tick off something every session."