Dragon Joel Thompson happier player under Paul McGregor

Joel Thompson says his family's best interests will determine his next contract. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Joel Thompson says his family's best interests will determine his next contract. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

He's yet to make a decision on his future but forward Joel Thompson says he is a much happier player under coach Paul McGregor and wants to be a driving force in the Dragons charge to the finals.

The 26-year-old firebrand admits he struggled with the transition from Canberra to Wollongong to take up a three-year deal with the Dragons this year particularly as he struggled to find a home on the paddock, shifting between back-row, centre an interchange roles.

After struggling for confidence, Thompson said a return to his favoured left edge and the faith shown in him by coach Paul McGregor has been the catalyst for a return to the form that earned him a Country Origin jumper in 2011.

"I am in a happier place. I was probably not in the right place early on mentally," Thompson said.

"I needed a fresh start from Canberra but I didn't realise it was going to be so tough on my young family.

"I was struggling a bit and my family was struggling with moving away. There was a few things going on but we're definitely feeling more settled - I'm feeling more settled.

"Mary's been good for me, he's given me a lot confidence and he's been really honest about where I need to improve and that's what you need as a footballer.

"I feel now I'm happier as a person and that's showing on the footy paddock."

Thompson rewarded the coach by stringing together his best performances of the season - he has not missed a minute of football and racked up over 100 metres in all six games under McGregor.

While he's still contemplating a possible return to Canberra to be closer to family, after recapturing top form and cementing his place on the Dragons left edge, it's a decision he's happy to leave until the end of the season.

"The decision's still up in the air but I'm just focusing on my footy at the moment," he said.

"When I start worrying about contracts it's not good for my footy and you could see that with me earlier in the year.

"My head was sort of all over the place and it was showing.

"I just need to get through the season and go week by week and concentrate on playing footy and that's what I've been doing lately."

While the Dragons have yet to appoint a head coach for next year, Thompson said the uncertainty would have no bearing on his decision which would be based on what's best for his family.

"Mary's a great coach, we've seen how much we've improved, and Bennett's one of the greatest coaches to ever coach the game," Thompson said.

"It's one of those things that's out of our hands. All we can focus on is what we can control and that's playing football and doing everything right here at training with Mary."

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