The banter has been flying backwards and forwards all week – Gerard Beale needs no reminding this is not just another game.
At least not for him.
He’s been there before wearing St George Illawarra’s colours against the only club he ever knew; a forgettable game where a mountain of possession didn’t translate to a mountain of points while he and his new teammates ‘‘were getting a feel for each other’’.
It’s hard to think of a more hair-pulling effort for Dragons fans than their abject round-two effort against the Broncos at WIN Stadium last year.
How times have changed.
Having left Brisbane to wear St George Illawarra’s No1 jersey last year, Beale had it in that game but lost the coveted jersey through injury a few weeks later. The arrival of brilliant fullback Josh Dugan means Beale won’t count on getting it back any time soon.
Yet one thing remains constant for the fullback-turned-centre: there is no game he wants to win more than the one against the club he reluctantly turned his back on.
‘‘It was difficult [leaving],’’ Beale said before Friday’s blockbuster against Broncos in Wollongong.
‘‘Growing up in Brisbane with a lot of those boys, it was tough, but it was all for the right reasons and they all supported me.
‘‘It was a strange feeling [playing against them last year] knowing a lot of the guys. Brisbane’s always going to be there in the back of my mind and it’s one of those games I always look forward to... and I really want to get one up on them.’’
Beale still counts fellow New Zealand internationals Josh Hoffman and Alex Glenn as his closest mates.
You could forgive Beale and Hoffman, forging a new career at five-eighth, for swapping hard-luck stories about their failed bids to wear the Brisbane No1.
Yet just like Hoffman, Beale is making more than a good fist of being turned into something most people thought he was not.
Without the worries last year’s knee reconstruction brought on, the 23-year-old is at ease with his new role on the left edge inside winger Brett Morris.
‘‘I feel a lot more confident [this season],’’ he said.
‘‘Last year I was new to the club and we were all trying to get a feel for each other but we’re gelling so quickly [this year].
‘‘If we can come out on top this week we’re going to take a lot more confidence. There’s a lot of confidence as it is, which is what we need but I’m pretty confident [we can win again].’’
It’s a feeling which flowed through to Morris.
Morris’s ability to quickly get on the same wavelength as Beale has been a feature of the rounds this season.
‘‘He [Beale] is a confident kid and his defence has been pretty good so far,’’ Morris said.
‘‘With the ball in hand he’s [getting better] and coming back from a knee reco, you’re going to be a little hesitant at the start but he’s growing with confidence. He’s starting to play some good footy,’’ Morris said.
Beale said he liked to give Morris space on the outside, ‘‘because I know what he can do, as you saw against the Sharks’’.
‘‘He’s one of the best wingers in the world, so I’m pretty lucky to be honest.’’