Doust has no doubts about Dragons in 2013 

RUGBY LEAGUE

St George Illawarra chief Peter Doust has addressed concerns over a lack of recruitment for next season and confirmed the club's head coaching role would be "back on the agenda" early in 2013.

In a wide-ranging interview, Doust urged fans not to underestimate the current playing squad, and said coach Steve Price would be given every opportunity to show his worth as an NRL coach.

His comments came as the Dragons signed a new five-year deal to play home games at WIN Stadium.

The Dragons have added five fresh faces to their roster for 2013, including Kiwi internationals Gerard Beale and Bronson Harrison, Manly half Josh Drinkwater, Tyson Frizell and Michael Hendersen.

After missing the play-offs for the first time since 2007, it remains to be seen whether the side is capable of bettering its ninth-place finish from this season, but Doust is confident that a top-eight berth isn't out of reach.

"I'm positive about our roster and I don't think people should underrate what we've achieved from a recruitment point of view, when we've re-signed a lot of our existing stars," he said.

"I think our roster comes together quite well. Surely it's about scoring points and I think we've added our capacity to [improve] on our efforts of last year.

"My argument is that when you've signed people like Trent Merrin, Dan Hunt, Jason Nightingale, Brett Morris, Cameron King and Mitch Rein - extend those sort of guys - my view is that if you put any of them on the market, they'd be viewed as marquee players.

"I think people underestimate the value of that to our club and our brand, those signings."

As a result of the NRL's new lucrative TV rights deal and the unforseen departures of several big-name players, Doust said the Dragons would "certainly be in a good place" to spend big under revised salary cap arrangements in 2014.

Mark Gasnier, Darius Boyd, Ben Hornby, Dean Young and Beau Scott are among those to have left the club with time still remaining on their contracts.

But Doust rejected talk that the club was sacrificing its 2013 result to lure big names such as Johnathan Thurston or Craig Bellamy the following year.

"People have been critical of what we haven't done at the marquee end," Doust said. "It's a very dynamic process, the management of this cap, especially when we know that it's likely to change under the considerations of the commission.

"There's opportunity for 2013, because we have to do a lot in the formative months of the year."

Included in that is deciding on a coach for 2014 and beyond. Incumbent Price is off contract at the end of next season and will be under pressure from the opening rounds to get on-field results.

Price endured a tough initiation in his opening year as mentor this season, after serving as an understudy to Wayne Bennett.

According to Doust, speculation over Price's status once his initial two-year contract had lapsed was unnecessary.

"We'll give Steven an opportunity to get into what he's got, which is the pre-season and the players that go with that," Doust said.

"We've got a few new faces and we're looking to see what that produces. It's a very results-driven business from a coaching perspective and we all know that.

"I think that it is clear that in 2013, coaching is on the agenda, but I'm not putting timelines on it."

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