Dragons greats laud 2014 depth
Two recently retired St George Illawarra stars say the number of players vying to fill their former positions highlight how much depth the squad boasts in 2014.
Mark Gasnier, who played 174 games for the Dragons predominantly at centre, and Ben Hornby, who skippered the side to its 2010 premiership as halfback, have run their eyes over the plethora of candidates coach Steve Price will have at his disposal in these positions.
"There's a variety of options there [in the centres] now and I think it depends on the style that Steve Price wants to play," Gasnier told NRL.com.
"You've got [former Raider] Joel Thompson that can play there, young Dylan Farrell coming in [from South Sydney], Charly Runciman [who debuted for the Dragons in 2013 and played six games at wing and centre], Kyle Stanley [a club junior coming off several injury-ruined seasons] that can play centres and Gerard Beale [joining from Brisbane].
"So I think it will depend on the style that he wants to play – whether you want a robust centre like a Joel Thompson that's going to run good lines and be strong defensively or whether you want a bit of the flashy stuff like Stanley, who has good footwork, and can throw a flick pass.
"I'm just as interested as any [which way Price will go]. I think it is going to be dependent on how their off-season goes, I think it's a big thing and it's a crucial part of the makeup of how a player warrants their spot so that will be a big part of it as well."
Hornby, who played the bulk of his 272 games for the club at halfback after starting out as a fullback, nominated five key players as options for the two roles in the halves.
"There's definitely plenty of depth there at the moment," Hornby told NRL.com.
"We've got Sam Williams [who joined from Canberra after the 2013 season], Kyle Stanley, Josh Drinkwater [who debuted in 2013], we've signed Michael Witt [from UK Super League club London Broncos] as well, and obviously Gareth Widdop [has joined from the Melbourne Storm].
"I'm sure they'll be battling it out the next couple of weeks and come the week after Christmas I'm assuming it'll go to whoever trials the best in the end."
Hornby is currently the coach of the club's Holden Cup squad, and said although the role is keeping him busy he may find time to give the halves contenders a few pointers over the off-season.
"In the new year I'm looking at maybe helping out with some of the kicking, but at the moment I'm looking at getting the 20s up to where we want them and hopefully starting from the younger kids we can build a competitive side for not just next year but the years to come," he said.