Craig Bellamy's rumoured move to the Dragons might be one of league's hottest topics, but the news has barely rated a mention among St George Illawarra players, playmaker Jamie Soward says.
Bellamy is considering a weighty seven-figure offer from the Dragons to coach from 2014 onwards and is likely to make his decision before the World Cup Challenge in February.
Significantly, that announcement is due to come before St George Illawarra meet the defending premiers in round one of the 2013 season.
The Dragons' audacious bid for Bellamy risks become a potential disruption for the players over the coming weeks, given the 2012 premiership-winner will be their first opposing coach of 2013.
But Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward insists the round-one battle against Bellamy's Storm hasn't been a talking point during pre-season training.
Like his teammates, Soward is simply looking forward to the intriguing clash with a healthy dose of irony.
"Feel free to put on a shirt and come out and train if you want - we haven't talked about it at all and as far as we're concerned, it's all business as usual here," Soward offered.
"We're all ready for this year, 2013, and we're looking forward to getting off to a good start."
Bellamy confirmed last month he was considering whether to re-sign with the Storm or accept an offer from a rival club. The 54-year-old confirmed he had planned to "make that decision in January".
Asked whether incumbent Steve Price deserved at least the opening weeks of the season to prove himself before an appointment was set in stone, Soward said: "You'll find that everywhere you go, any type of job.
"I'm off-contract this year and I'm sure if I'm not playing well, people will start talking about me soon, so it's not really anything that Pricey's got to be worried about and I'm not worried about it at the moment.
"It's a bit ironic [to play the Storm in round one], but if you're [potentially] out of a job, you're always trying your best to keep it."
Soward strongly rejected suggestions that continued speculation over Bellamy joining the club might affect the Dragons' mindset. "We're worried about round one versus Melbourne," the former NSW Origin pivot said.
‘‘Melbourne [are] the defending champions. We know how hard it is to defend, so we’ll be preparing for Melbourne round one.’’
Soward reckons nothing would help to open his 2013 campaign quite like a call-up to the NRL All Stars match in Queensland next month.
Voting for the annual exhibition match, featuring both the Indigenous All Stars and the NRL All Stars, closes on Monday.
Soward is currently in a tight race to partner Johnathan Thurston in the Indigenous All-Stars halves, with Chris Sandow and Scott Prince also in contention.
Indigenous All Stars coach Laurie Daley will field a 20-man squad for the fourth annual game, with the public able to pick 16 of those players.
‘‘I’m trying to get some votes to play,’’ Soward joked.
‘‘It’s just such a great game and if I can get some extra votes, that’d be great.
‘‘I’m definitely a game kind of guy, I don’t really like training too much. The earlier the games come the better, and it’s such a good week.’’
Soward’s last appearance in the NRL All-Star game was in 2011.
Fans can vote for the former NSW Origin five-eighth by visiting the All Stars website, nrl.com/allstars.
‘‘It’s a real privilege. I missed out last year which was disappointing but I think the fans reacted on how the season went the year before, and I didn’t finish the year off well,’’ Soward said.
‘‘I’m trying to do my best to get back in this year.’’