Dragons must muscle up: Packer
St George Illawarra front-rower Russell Packer says the time has come for the side's forward pack to step up and lead the from the front in order to turn around the club's fortunes.
While the Red V were ranked ninth in total metres gained out of all sixteen clubs in 2016, their inability to turn attack into points created a number of headlines, with the pressure on coach Paul McGregor and skipper Gareth Widdop mounting.
Packer wants to make sure the Dragons don't shy away from the fact that the forwards need to be in control in order to give more room for the little men to create opportunities for the outside backs.
"Obviously there's always been some criticism there with the forward pack but we can only worry about what we can do this year so it's up to us whether we can live up to our potential," Packer said.
"We've got some new additions in the squad, particularly in the middle with Vaughny [Paul Vaughan] bringing a lot to our forward pack.
"I think we can match it with other teams in the competition in terms of our forward pack so that’s one of our goals and I think we can do it."
The 27-year-old made his return to the NRL for the Dragons in March after a 30-month exile and is ready to take his game back to the level that saw him represent the New Zealand Kiwis back in 2011, particularly with a Rugby League World Cup coming up at the end of the year.
"Coming back to the game last year was a good stepping stone and this year I need to continue to improve," Packer said.
"I really love the club and everyone involved has been good to me in the last two a half years."
St George Illawarra's first challenge will come against a Penrith side that many are predicting will go a long way this season, but Packer is keen to focus on his team's own ability.
"It's been a long slog for the boys… 15 weeks of hard work," he said.
"It's going to be a tough game against the Panthers but with the boys in the squad, if we play well with our ability, we can match it with any team this year.
"There's only one way to prove that and it's by doing it, so everyone's excited to get the season off to a good note.
"We've got a good opportunity to go out there and get our season on the front foot in terms of momentum."