Old Dragons teammates become rivals

RUGBY LEAGUE 

After spending a decade together in the NRL, close mates Ben Hornby and Dean Young will meet as opponents for the first time this month.

The retired Dragons stars, who have both been appointed coaches for the joint venture's respective SG Ball teams, will go head-to-head as mentors on January 12, when Hornby's St George Dragons under-18 side take on Young's Illawarra Steelers in their opening trial fixture. The match promises to break uncharted territory for the two Illawarra products but neither is reading into the personal rivalry.

"I don't make too much of it really because Ben and I are both there to do the same job; we're both hired by the club to try and push our juniors along and try and help them come through the same program that we've come through," Young said.

"I suppose it's not really about me or Benny. We're both really competitive and we both want to win but in the end it's only a trial game and we're both working for the same club."

Hornby and Young spent the better part of 10 seasons at the Dragons, and were pivotal in securing the club's breakthrough premiership in 2010.

Both are among a growing rollcall of past Dragons players now imparting their knowledge in the competitive SG Ball competition, with Mat Head (Balmain Tigers) and Mark Riddell (Sydney Roosters).

"I'm pretty blessed to play 10 years of footy, doing something I love, and then having to walk away from that earlier than what I would have liked but into something that I'm equally passionate about," Young said of coaching.

"We didn't actually draw Benny's side in the regular competition because there's 18 teams in the comp and only nine rounds. We didn't get them in the draw but we have them in the first trial, which is always between those two teams."

Both competitive footballers, it seems little has changed for Hornby and Young as they enter the coaching ranks. But the same can't be said of the skill level and standard of the SG Ball competition, which Young admitted had changed drastically since he donned a junior jersey.

"The young kids coming through are a lot better than the guys I played with at that age - their skill levels have gone through the roof," Young said.

"They're bigger than first-graders, some of the kids in Benny's side.

"I don't have a lot of big boppers but they're tough and they have a crack."

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