A relaxed Steve Price says he is anything but a man with the weight of the rugby league world on his shoulders, professing a more mature outlook both as a coach and person ahead of his second year in charge of the Dragons.
Having watched helplessly as St George Illawarra launched an ultimately fruitless pursuit of Craig Bellamy over summer, the 35-year-old Price now has a chance to stake his claims for a contract extension.
Speaking on the eve of the Charity Shield showdown with Souths at ANZ Stadium tonight, Price said he was ‘‘excited’’ about what lay in store in 2013 rather than feeling under pressure.
‘‘I feel like I’m a lot more mature than what I was last year and really looking forward to playing [tonight] and getting down to Melbourne in round one,’’ he said.
Pressed on what lessons he had heeded in the wake of the Dragons’ failure to make the finals last season, Price said: ‘‘There’s a number of things. I’m not going to go into great detail currently, [but] I definitely feel like I’ve matured a lot more as a person and as a coach.
‘‘It’s definitely transferring out on the field.’’
The Dragons have been panned by all and sundry prior to a ball being kicked this season, so much so bookmakers have installed only Gold Coast and Penrith behind them in premiership betting.
It’s territory the Red V are seemingly unfamiliar with, but one that doesn’t faze the youngest coach in the NRL or his re-energised squad.
‘‘Certainly a lot of people have written us off and that’s cool with me and that’s cool with our playing group,’’ Price said.
‘‘We have high standards within our footy club and that will continue. Our main focus is being a consistent footy team and the rest will take care of itself.’’
Former representative prop Michael Weyman will make his return from a nine-month knee injury lay-off when he enters the fray off the bench tonight.
Medical staff have taken the precautionary route with Weyman’s regular partner in crime Dan Hunt (calf), meaning returning Dragon Michael Henderson and utility Matt Prior will start in the front row.
‘‘The Charity Shield is always a little bit more upmarket than a normal trial,’’ Price said. ‘‘It’s always ferocious around the middle and it’s tough.
‘‘I’m just mixing it up at the moment with the trials. Everyone will get an opportunity [tonight] and even their game time. Whoever puts their best foot forward will get that opportunity in round one.’’
Price said he had no pre-conceived ideas about how many minutes Weyman or any of his stars would play tonight, while warning Dragons fans not to expect miracles from the Moruya junior upon his comeback.
‘‘His timing is going to be a little bit off,’’ he said.
‘‘I expect that coming off a knee reconstruction. It is a serious injury and it’s going to take a little bit of time.’’