Dragons' Gerard Beale a trump card

He was bought to play fullback, is likely to end up in the centres and feels like he has to make his debut for the club all over again - yet you will hear no complaints from the ever-optimistic Gerard Beale.

The sight of the free-striding New Zealand international was a welcome one at St George Illawarra pre-season training, as the forgotten "recruit" looms as a backline trump card for Steve Price next year.

Lasting only five rounds into his first season in the Red V before rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament, the 23-year-old was almost consigned to rehabilitation ever since.

He's doubtful he would be this far advanced into his recovery if it wasn't for the support of utility Kyle Stanley, who is well on the way to full fitness after a fourth knee reconstruction.

"We became really close and it's good to have that partner there," Beale said. "We were both at the same stage so we could push each other.

"I think if he wasn't there it would have been a lot harder and I don't think I would have been at the stage I am today. I think he's the same.

"We've been pushing each other and getting the best out of each other."

Their injury concerns aside, it's easy to draw more than just one parallel between the comebacks of both Beale and Stanley, one year Beale's junior.

Beale is likely to be parachuted into the centres with Josh Dugan an immoveable object in the Dragons No 1.

He was already tried on the wing in a previous stint with Brisbane, away from his first-choice fullback role.

And Stanley's injury-ravaged career to date has also involved a number of positional switches, most notably between fullback and the centres with a dash of five-eighth throw in.

A return to the halves is set to occupy his immediate future.

Like Stanley, Beale is thankful to just get back on the park - anywhere - after he was forced to watch the Dragons "go through a bit of pain" in a miserable 2013 season.

"Things are meant to happen," he said.

"I see it like that. It gave me a good chance to look at things and also spend more time with my son [Nixon].

"My main goal is just to get back on the field and anywhere in the team will be a bonus. I'm probably looking at the centres, but it's a long way away yet.

"We've got some real quality players, especially in the backline. I think that's going to be our strong point for the team; there's also a lot of depth in all positions which is good."

Among the candidates for the centres include Beale and Charly Runciman while Souths recruit Dylan Farrell and Newcastle pick-up Peter Mata'utia are also circling.

■ Wollongong fans will know the dates of the four Dragons games at WIN Stadium today when the NRL 2014 draw is released.

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