Trent Merrin has felt the absence of senior figures Ben Hornby and Dean Young around WIN Stadium.
The barrel-chested lock senses the expectation on him becoming a leader of the Red V.
For years the Dragons relied on the same names, the torch-bearers who finally buried the "choker" taunts with glory in 2010.
But what now?
After Hornby and Young retired, where is the next generation for St George Illawarra?
Merrin and Mitch Rein have carried the baton, but in comparison, the Dragons' post-premiership brigade are far removed from the golden generation of the last decade.
The names Gasnier, Ryles, Poore, Creagh, Cooper, Barrett and Bailey may have missed their chance back in 2005 and 2006, but they were part of a battalion of junior talent the club produced.
Aside from Merrin, Rein and Cameron King, the crop of young players Steve Price helped produce in the under 20s have either left, or are yet to make their mark.
Merrin recognises that his time has come.
"For sure," he said.
"I came in idolising Dean and Ben Hornby and to spend a few years under them, I've learned much from them.
"And for them to be gone now, you can feel that pressure is there, not sort of pressure, but shoes to fill that sort of leadership role.
"We've got some leaders here in Ben Creagh and Michael Weyman and Dan Hunt, but the younger generation coming through have to take on board and realise that there's young guys that are looking up to us.
"We've got to lead by example."
While the Dragons recruitment in recent times has been hit and miss - Cooper Cronk and Michael Jennings among those they pursued without success - they have secured Gerard Beale, Tyson Frizell, as well as Bronson Harrison and Daniel Vidot away from the Raiders.
The club's fall from grace since 2010 has been largely attributed to Wayne Bennett's exit and the loss of Darius Boyd, Jeremy Smith, Neville Costigan and Beau Scott.
But out of their own folder of potential 'next big things', most players have either had their papers marked, or otherwise still hoping to prove themselves.
The Stanley brothers are continually dogged by injury, Matt Prior may yet fulfil his immense potential this year and prop Jack Stockwell is knocking on the door.
"It's a process we've been under for a few years," Merrin said.
"We know our job, we know the officials and the staff and the process to get to the top of the game."
Jack Buchanan slipped through the net and is now a starting front-rower at the Tigers, part of a growing list of young talent now playing elsewhere, or not at all, in the NRL.
Dean Whare, Kane Linnett, Beau Henry, Joe Vickery, Kalifa Fai Fai Loa, Jake Marketo and Alex McKinnon are all no longer at the club, while Nathan Green isn't part of the Dragons' top 25 squad.
Jack De Belin has started the year on the outer, not helped by his two-game suspension for a dangerous throw while playing for the Illawarra Cutters.
In the absence of home-grown talent in key positions, Merrin said the acquisition of second-rowers Harrison and Frizell, and fullback Beale, will boost the team.
"We've got Bronson and Tyson, who bought into [the club culture] and are willing to do 100 per cent," Merrin said.
"Everyone is on the same page and looking to go forward."
Of all the members of the Dragons squad, Merrin has felt the doubt and speculation about Price's future most.
Merrin was part of the first ever National Youth Cup under-20 team, coached by Price, which made it to the preliminary final.
In his second year in charge, Price is now fighting for his future after Craig Bellamy knocked back the St George Illawarra offer to stay in Melbourne.
"I respect Pricey the utmost," Merrin said.
"He's done a lot for my career from the 20s where I debuted under him. When all that stuff came out, I knew I had his back from the get go.
"I wanted to do everything I can for the team and for him to push through the rubbish and let him just worry about us as a unit and do the best we can. I think I owe a bit to Pricey, I'd like to do the best on the field for him."