De Belin could play second fiddle to Merrin

Enforcer Jack de Belin and Charly Runciman at the University of Wollongong. Picture: DAVE TEASE
Enforcer Jack de Belin and Charly Runciman at the University of Wollongong. Picture: DAVE TEASE

Trent Merrin's loss has turned into anything but Jack de Belin's gain - not that the young Dragons enforcer is fretting too much about the prospect of limited early-season opportunities.

Desperately clamouring for a spot on Steve Price's bench for the round-one showdown with newly crowned world champions Melbourne, de Belin shapes as a potential fall guy of a slimmed-down Merrin transformation.

Four-time NSW representative Merrin has been groomed to play extended minutes in 2013, likely to shunt de Belin and the versatile Matt Prior into uncustomary interchange roles.

But de Belin remained unconcerned about playing second fiddle to Merrin in his preferred lock position, claiming St George Illawarra could cater for both in their round-one squad.

"Trent and I are completely different players," de Belin said.

"As everyone has seen from the trials, he's a great attacker and he's got strong footwork, whereas my strength is defence.

"For someone like Trent, who was a big boy, he's worked really hard to get where he is.

"He doesn't look like he can play big minutes, but he can.

"I'd be very happy anywhere in the side.

"In round one it's a great time of year to be playing first grade - especially against Melbourne.

"Even if I'm not picked it's not the end of the world.

"He'll [Price] tell me what I need to work on and I'll go back to the [Illawarra] Cutters and I know I'll be back up there sooner or later."

Price publicly stated his round one puzzle remained far from complete after the Dragons slumped to a Charity Shield loss to a Greg Inglis-inspired Souths.

Daniel Vidot and Chase Stanley are duelling to be named as Matt Cooper's centre partner, while a second row accomplice for Ben Creagh and a pair of interchange spots also remain contentious.

De Belin, 21, said Price had kept his players on edge ahead of their trip to AAMI Park on March 10.

"There's a lot of good signings and a few young fellas as well that are pushing for positions," he said.

"It's good in a way that everyone has been training a lot harder and you've got a position you have to play for.

"Round one no-one really knows - there's no positions that are guaranteed. You just have to train hard and hope to get the call-up."

The Storm touched down in Australia yesterday after their gripping World Club Challenge win over Leeds on Saturday morning.

Their next challenge?

Launching a premiership defence at a similar speed to which the Dragons did in 2011, shortly after returning as world champions with victory over Michael Maguire's Wigan.

The Red V won 10 of their first 11 games of the regular season before an end-of-year slide.

"They could still be riding high and take that form into round one, or it could have the opposite effect," de Belin said of the challenges facing the Storm.

"They might be flat."

He and young gun Charly Runciman attended "O" Week celebrations on campus yesterday to promote the Dragons' membership drive.


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