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De Belin rings in new season in better shape


Adam Pengilly

In top condition ... Jack de Belin.

In top condition ... Jack de Belin. Photo: Greg Totman

 A TRIMMED-DOWN Jack de Belin has promised to shed the laid-back attitude that had him "plodding" through his first full season in the NRL in an attempt to win a vote of confidence from St George Illawarra coach Steve Price.

Mired in a logjam for back-row spots at the Dragons even despite the exits of veterans Dean Young (retirement) and Beau Scott (Newcastle), de Belin admitted his body and mind were not ready for the roller-coaster they endured last season.

But after adopting a more professional approach in this pre-season – including an earlier bedtime – the 21-year-old has set his sights on emulating front-row workhorses Michael Weyman and Dan Hunt. Even if that means abandoning last year's attitude of "not stepping on any feet".

"Playing alongside both of them last year I got an understanding you need to be dominant – and that's what they both are," the former Junior Kangaroo said. "They're both dominant people and when they call something it usually happens.

"I was standing back and letting them do what they wanted. I'm happy to step up [this year] and demand the ball instead of standing back and hoping to get it."

Used as a makeshift prop alongside Matt Prior for the Dragons' trial loss to North Queensland last Saturday night, de Belin has been named on an extended bench for the Charity Shield clash with South Sydney on Friday night.

Weyman will play his first match since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament in round 10 last season when he also comes off the bench, but Hunt will sit out the clash in a bid to be fit for the season opener against Melbourne.

Prior and Michael Henderson were named as the starting props in Price's extended 22-man squad.

De Belin said he was keen to avoid a repeat of last season when he spent five games in the NSW Cup with Illawarra Cutters, the Dragons' feeder side.

"I feel substantially fitter, stronger as well and I'm a lot leaner," he said. "I probably carried a little bit too much weight [last year] – I put it all on too quickly.

"This pre-season my body has adapted and I'm more inclined to be able to train at a high intensity for a long time. I'm feeling much better – like I could play a lot more minutes I think and be more of a benefit to the team.

"When I am on the field I just need to be giving 100 per cent instead of just plodding along and hoping things will come.

"The older boys, you've got to respect them in a sense, but when the time comes you know when you have to step it up because you're not the rookie any more."

St George Illawarra's re-modelled pack, featuring off-season recruits Bronson Harrison (Canberra) and Henderson (Gold Coast), will face a stern test against the imposing Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium.

Souths named Ben Te'o in a 22-man squad for the clash, with the Brisbane recruit to make his first appearance for the Rabbitohs.


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