St George Illawarra Dragons fullback Adam Quinlan admits to being shocked when he was told by new coach Paul McGregor he'd be returning to first grade but has vowed to do whatever it takes to make the new-look team structure a success.
Quinlan spent plenty of time under McGregor on a week-to-week basis at Dragons NSW Cup side the Illawarra Cutters, and Quinlan is adamant he'll bring plenty to the NRL side.
"It was a disappointing game out there tonight [against the Rabbitohs] but I was very grateful for the opportunity Mary [McGregor] gave me to get back in first grade," Quinlan told NRL.com after the 29-10 loss.
"It was a bit of a shock at the start of the week but I was really pumped to get out there and put in a good performance. Unfortunately it wasn't one of my best but hopefully if I get the opportunity again I can work hard and get better."
Quinlan played four games at the start of the season when first-string fullback Josh Dugan was out with a knee injury, performing strongly as the side briefly surged to the top of the ladder after winning its opening three games. He then played halfback against the Rabbitohs at the SCG in Round 5 on Dugan's return, with the side going down 26-6.
With the Dragons seeing little quality ball in attack on Monday night and regularly handing the opposition field position courtesy of a 7-2 penalty count against them, Quinlan's input was limited to 50 metres from nine runs in his first game at fullback in which Dugan was also available.
McGregor said post-game he was pleased with Dugan's efforts at centre and that Quinlan had been in outstanding form for the Cutters, hinting the switch may last beyond this week.
"Putting Adam there, he's been in outstanding form in reserve grade, into a position where he's very good at and we're short a right centre – I thought the combination there was a necessity," McGregor said.
"If you look at our start to the year when Adam was at fullback we scored 110 points within the first four rounds."
Quinlan said he gets on well with McGregor, who he rated highly as a coach.
"There's been a few changes, Mary's taken over now and I was coached by him last year a fair bit in the Illawarra Cutters. I get on quite well with him, he's quite a coach. I don't know what he's going to do with the side but whatever combinations he picks we'll keep working on them," Quinlan said.
"He's pretty straight down the line, knowledgeable, he's no-nonsense and tells it how it is and he'll bring great things to the club."
Quinlan said new signing Benji Marshall had settled in at the club straight away and had shown some promising touches in his second hit-out in the Red V.
"Hopefully we can keep working on those combinations with him and [five-eight Gareth Widdop] and the rest of the backline and I'm sure we'll only get better," Quinlan said.
"He did some great things [on Monday night], he's been away from the game for a long time. It's not going to take him long to get it back. He's adding flair and experience and ability to the backline which is great."
He said with only a five-day turnaround until Saturday night's local Derby against Cronulla, it was time to go straight back to the drawing board.
"We'll look at what we've got to work on for next week and we'll be ready come Saturday," he said.
"The game we played earlier in the year [won 14-12 by the Dragons at Cronulla in Round 3] was a tough game, like always against them, but they've got some quality players in the squad, they'll be hard to beat and we'll have to be on our game."