Undeterred by the innuendo surrounding his future, St George Illawarra coach Steve Price speaks confidently and optimistically with MICHAEL CARAYANNIS about the Dragons’ chances in 2013.
MC: Obviously you would have reviewed season 2012. What was your take on it?
SP: I thought there was a lot of positive stuff throughout the year. We played some really good footy in the first part of the season and then hit a little bit of a flat spot but it was positive with how we finished the season. We certainly need to improve to be at the forefront of the NRL and we definitely need to improve our attack and that has been a heavily focused point throughout our pre-season.
MC: It was your first as a head coach. What did you learn about yourself?
SP: There was a number of things I did learn. It's important that when I got away from footy I got away and spent quality time with my family. At times it is quite difficult but second year round I'd like to think that I'll be more confident in being able to do things at certain times. It was a learning curve and there were mistakes that I did make and it's important that I don't double them up. I'm confident that I can do that and am really looking forward to nailing this pre-season and then the trials.
MC: Have you changed anything about yourself heading into this season?
SP: I'm a little bit more open minded in certain areas as to what we need to improve, especially in our offence. I'm working really hard with our coaching staff to be able to do that. There are a lot of new stuff that we are slowly implementing with our training program. It's quite positive.
MC: How do you go about revamping the attack?
SP: I wouldn't say it's a total revamp. It's just about playing to our players' strengths and we've got to find a balance and a way that utilises their strengths and not play to their weaknesses.
MC: There's obviously a lot of questions surrounding team selections and where players are going to play. Is that a good or bad thing?
SP: I think that's a great thing to have that. It's a great headache to have and at times it gives you plenty of sleepless nights but that's what we get paid for - to make tough decisions and I'm not afraid to do that. I thought Mitch Rein had an outstanding year but there is going to be a lot of pressure on him from Cameron King.
MC: Talk us through Daniel Vidot's up-and-down season.
SP: He is an outstanding talent and very powerful. There are areas in his game he needs to improve on and what you do in your lifestyle and home front certainly transfers onto the football field. He has to find the routine and balance. I'm confident he can do that and he is working extremely hard to do that. If we can get him where we want him to be I'm confident he can be a real good player. Whether that's on the wing or at centre we'll determine that in the pre-season.
MC: You mentioned Vidot as a centre. Is that a chance going forward?
SP: Yeah. He will get an opportunity there in the pre-season and trials. He is aware of what his strengths are and what he needs to improve on in that position. We're looking for a little bit more strike there. Matty Cooper will be our left centre and that right centre is up for grabs with Daniel and Chase Stanley.
MC: Will Mick Weyman be ready for round one?
SP: He is doing really well. His rehab has been great and we're looking to bring him back in our full-time training squad within the next two weeks. We had a number of guys who had off-season surgery and we're starting to get those guys back in the full-time training squad.
MC: Will Nathan Fien train all off-season at halfback?
SP: Yes, Nathan will train all pre-season in the halves. We've got some exciting hookers in Rein and King. Jamie Soward, Nathan and young Josh Drinkwater will all get an opportunity in the halves.
MC: Gerard Beale is a handy acquisition. Will he play a distribution role, similar to that of Darius Boyd?
SP: Firstly, I thought Jason Nightingale and Brett Morris were outstanding when given that job last season. They didn't get a hell of a lot of training to prepare for it. I'm very confident with what we're trying to improve on in offence. The best three fullbacks in the game have the skill set to get the attacking rolling. I'm confident Gerard can give us that ability to be a ball player out the back and be that link man. He is a great athlete and has great leadership qualities.
MC: You mentioned Jamie Soward. How has he returned to pre-season?
SP: Sowie has come back really positive. He is doing everything that is asked of him. He had an ankle operation so he hasn't been able to do too much running. I'm really positive that he can stamp his mark and we can get him back to playing the footy we know he is capable of.
MC: You and Jamie have always said that you two have a great working relationship, but what's the personal relationship like?
SP: It's great. We have a great personal relationship and we get on fine.
MC: Next year is obviously a big one for you. Are you feeling any added pressure?
SP: I'm not. At the end of the day I can just can control what I can do which is about preparing our footy team to the best of our ability. I can't worry about what's happening the following year. My focus point is 2013.
MC: How do you deal with suggestions that the Dragons may make a big play for someone like Craig Bellamy?
SP: I can't buy into that stuff. That's out of my control. All I can control is turning up every day, every week and every month and prepare our footy team.
MC: You would be under no illusions that the start to the season is key for not only your season but for your career?
SP: All starts are really crucial. It's not just how you start but how you finish. If we're consistent with our training ethics and the standards we've set ourselves then that will look after itself in terms of how we're playing.
MC: What would you classify as a successful 2013?
SP: Just a consistent footy team. If we're consistent then the results will take care of itself.