Nightingale keen on playing for family

RUGBY LEAGUE

Jason Nightingale's chances of playing in front of family in New Zealand have been few and far between.

Not even a stunted World Cup campaign is likely to hold him back from the Auckland Nines.

Always one to check if the Dragons have been drawn to take on the Warriors across the ditch before glancing at any other fixture, Nightingale is relishing the possibility of two trips back home in the space of a month.

The 27-year-old put his hand up to be part of the St George Illawarra squad for the inaugural Nines.

The Dragons then return to New Zealand for a round two stoush with the Warriors at Eden Park.

Nightingale checked in at Dragons training earlier this week after an enforced break due to the Kiwis' World Cup exertions but said he was confident of getting miles in the legs to be fit for the Nines.

"There wouldn't be too many boys that would turn it down," he said after a recent holiday across the Tasman.

"It's a great thing and exciting to be a part of.

"Myself, Brett [Morris] and Gareth [Widdop] are probably racing against the clock as far as our fitness goes but if you get a month under your belt I'm always confident about going out to play no matter what time of the year it is.

"We'd all love to be a part of that and experience something that is so different."

Nightingale's World Cup never really got off the ground as the former New Zealand regular was forced to play second fiddle to Manu Vatuvei and Roosters' premiership hero Roger Tuivasa-Sheck during the tournament in the United Kingdom.

The latter was cleared for the Manchester final despite concerns over a fractured leg only to suffer a break with his first hit-up in the 34-2 loss to the Kangaroos.

"Those things happen and you can't really predict what's going to happen," Nightingale said.

"They [the wingers] were playing great football and Roger is a current star who will only get better as well.

"It's a long time to be away from home ... that's the tough thing about those tours but it was a great experience; unfortunately we didn't get the result in the final."

Despite overhauling their roster with a band of recruits, Nightingale recognises the need for the Dragons to burst out of the blocks in 2014.

The Red V will play six of their first nine matches at home.

The 18-Test veteran can see a change in attitude at training.

"It's a lot different and a fresher feel to previous years," Nightingale said.

"We've definitely got a lot more depth right across the park than what we've had in previous years.

"I suppose it is a bit of a monkey on our back [that] we had a poor start last year and the year before that wasn't that great either.

"If we get off to a good start it will take a bit of pressure off [players and staff], but we know the hard work that it takes.

"Hopefully we're preparing ourselves so we start the right way and the way we're expecting to," Nightingale said.

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