AFTER a less than spectacular debut as a spindly winger in 2003, Dragons skipper Ben Creagh never expected to get within reach of becoming the famous club's most capped player.
Eleven years later, Creagh (skippering the side in the front row no less) will draw level with club stalwart Jeff Hardy and 2010 premiership-winning teammate Matt Cooper on 243 first grade appearances when he leads the Dragons out against the Roosters on Saturday night.
Barring injury against the defending premiers, Creagh will surpass them against Penrith next week to become the third most capped player in the Dragons history behind only Norm Provan (256) and the man he succeeded as captain of the club, Ben Hornby (273), on the all-time list.
At just 29, it leaves him well within reach of Hornby's mark but Creagh said the milestone has crept up on him this week.
"Twelve years ago, I was a skinny little winger debuting on the wing for the club.
"I had a bit of shocker so I never thought I'd be 240 games later speaking about that but that's how footy is," Creagh said.
"It's a fairly big change over the years from wing to front-row but as I've got a bit older and a bit slower that's how the progression's gone. It's gone really fast.
"It's not something you chase, it just kind of comes along, but it's a huge privilege to be able to play that many games for the one club," he said.
"Hopefully I can finish my career here as well."
In a year in which the Dragons have sacked a coach and been subjected to intense speculation over who the next one will be, captaining a young side has been no easy feat. But a switch to the engine room under Paul McGregor has seen Creagh - averaging 14 hit-ups for 118 metres a game - recapture top form and coincided with a rapid turnaround in the side's fortunes.
As a man who prefers to lead by example, Creagh said the switch to the No. 8 eased the pressure of the captaincy and left him enjoying his football again.
"It definitely makes [the captaincy] easier.
"Maybe I was getting a bit stale playing back-row because I'd played it for so long and a bit of change has helped me along a bit," Creagh said.
"I'm really loving my time playing front-row now. It's a fairly big change from back-row but I'm enjoying my time in there. In the middle you're always in the action, there's a carry there if you want it, there's a tackle there if you want it and I enjoy that.
"I'm really enjoying my footy at the moment, that's been the main thing. Over the last eight weeks with the team going well it definitely helps me being skipper, and Mary takes a fair bit of pressure off as well with the way he coaches the side, which helps me a lot."