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Dragons captain Gareth Widdop.

Gareth Widdop once marched into Craig Bellamy's office, 60-odd NRL games and a Storm title to his name, and left the Melbourne mastermind speechless.

"I’m about to sign with the Dragons, when’s a good time to tell the lads?" the young Englishman told Bellamy, no fuss, no muss.

Since that frank chat six years ago, Widdop and his family have become ingrained in the St George Illawarra inner sanctum and in turn the wider Wollongong community.

Widdop captains the club, his son Brayden runs his kicking tee and the English international apparently knows the name of every kid who crosses his path in the northern Illawarra suburb of Thirroul.

All of which makes his shift to Warrington at season's end, and the conversations around it, that much tougher.

When news of an impending Super League switch for the 29-year-old first broke, his kids feared they were UK-bound the next day.

St George Illawarra instead have a whole season with Widdop leading the side.

And one more crack at adding another premiership ring to the collection before he and his family make a move that has been more than a decade in the making.

Dragons season preview - NRL Teams

"It has been on my mind ever since I moved out here," Widdop told

"I've always wanted to go back and play since I first came out at 16. It's been no secret that I've wanted to go back and play home at some point.

"These are tough decisions, but you come across them in life and this is just one of them that we've made. I'm looking forward to it but it's still a long way off at the moment.

"I don't want to go into it too much out of respect to my teammates, the sponsors and our fans. It's a decision that was made a long time ago now.

"My main focus now is making sure that in this last year at the Dragons I'm going out there and doing everything possible to have some success."

Widdop is reluctant to dwell too long on his return to his motherland, but more comfortable with lifting the Dragons back to the promised one.

Jack de Belin's playing fate aside, Paul McGregor well and truly has a roster of his own making.

"I came into the club when it probably wasn't in the best position," Widdop said.

"I've been here for six, seven years now and it's taken that long to get the roster that the coaches want and it's a really competitive roster.

"Last year for a number of reasons we didn't get there but our team hasn't gone backwards. We've added Corey Norman, we've lost Leeson Ah Mau but we've got Korbin Sims.

"You'd like to think the squad's the same if not a little bit more experienced."

Norman's introduction to the red and white shifts Widdop to fullback for the first time at club level since those days at Melbourne, though a standout 2017 World Cup campaign in England's No.1 jersey puts he and McGregor at ease with the spinal adjustment.

Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop.
Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

The coach has also outlined a plan for livewire custodian Matt Dufty to play from the pine, with Widdop able to shift into the halves alongside Norman and Ben Hunt pushing into hooker.

Widdop is open to the in-game changes and the luxury of attacking options compared to seasons past, provided the playmakers have enough time to truly nut out their combinations.

"I think if you come up with something you need to stick with it and give it a good crack," Widdop said.

"We've got that ability to rotate and change things, we've all played in those positions.

"But generally in the spine you don't want to tweak things too much, I've got the mindset that I am going to be at fullback for a full year or at least a large part of it.

"Each week it will be different, you don't want to be tweaking your spine too much and changing things but we do have that option.

"Each game is going to be different for whatever reason but we can use Duft like that because I can switch into the front line if he's to come on with his speed and footwork, that could be really useful against a tired defence."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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