Given a stay of execution by the man set to sit in the adjacent coaching box, Steve Price has insisted he has nothing to prove in a meeting of the minds with premiership-winning coach Craig Bellamy.
In a script only rugby league could write, a relaxed Price will match wits with the irrepressible Bellamy when their respective sides meet in an electric season opener on Sunday.
The Dragons courted Bellamy with a big-money offer to head to Wollongong next season, but the 53-year-old instead inked a three-year extension with the Storm last month.
He will remain in Melbourne until the end of 2016.
But Price declared he has nothing extra to prove against the man lined up to take his job all summer, deflecting the attention to the on-field battle at AAMI Park.
‘‘I’m just more focused on what we can control and that’s getting out there playing the footy we know we’re capable of doing,’’ Price said.
‘‘He [Bellamy] is an outstanding coach and one of the best coaches in the game. It’s not me against him, it’s about the Dragons footy club, our playing group and our coaching staff and what we’ve focused on in the preseason - going out there and replicating that good performance.’’
Quizzed on whether he was more adept to handle the challenges of a second year at the helm of the Dragons, Price said: ‘‘I’ve been asked that question a number of times over the last couple of months, but I definitely feel like I’m a lot more confident and a lot more mature in my own ability.
‘‘There’s no pressure on our footy club. There’s a lot of external stuff that’s been said about us, but we know what we’re capable of doing and if we go out there and execute that, play to the best of our ability and achieve the goals in which we’ve set ourselves, then everything else will take care of itself.’’
Not since a David Waite-coached Dragons stunned Melbourne in the 1999 qualifying final have the Red V tasted success in the southern capital, a time when Price was at Balmain and in the final year of an injury-cruelled playing career.
More than 13 years and 11 trips south have passed for the Dragons since, with the 35-year-old Price clinging to a chance to re-write the record books with his re-modelled squad.
He dead-batted questions about St George Illawarra’s dismal record in Melbourne, claiming this year ‘‘was an opportunity to close the book’’.
And he then maintained the squad would possess much more potency than the one which fumbled its way through large parts of the Charity Shield.
‘‘We’ve done everything we can in this preseason,’’ Price said. ‘‘We went into the Charity Shield with a high [training] load [leading] into that game.
‘‘That was always planned with the coaching staff - players were under fatigue going into that game. We’ve backed off now and the boys are just really really focused and really looking forward to Sunday.’’
The Dragons worked overtime on their defence in the middle of the park during an intense session at WIN Stadium yesterday, hinting Billy Slater would attract plenty of attention from the visitors.
Said Price: ‘‘He’s a key player and he’s one of the best players in the world, isn’t he? I’m sure all teams will be focused on Billy throughout the week.
‘‘We’ve got to do a really good job on him on Sunday and contain him.
‘‘As a coaching group and as a footy club and as a playing group, that’s why you play footy, to play against the best. There’s no better chance to do that in round one at their home turf.’’