As premiers Sydney Roosters and grand final opponents Manly return to training, having progressed as far as both teams could last season, so too will St George Illawarra, having not.
While the Roosters and the Sea Eagles ended the season as the best in the competition, the Dragons were underachievers.
As a result, coach Steve Price trained the players for several weeks after they bowed out before the finals, prompting their return at the same time as the top guns.
They will do so with expectations that match the best teams.
"Why shouldn't they be [high]?" skipper Ben Creagh said ahead of the squad's return.
"After the disappointment of last season, they should be high. They're high for me and high for the boys, too. We definitely don't want to have a repeat of this year.
"I'm very confident and very excited about going back to training. I'm confident about 2014, with the new blood we've got in the club, the young guys who have got their opportunities now know what NRL's all about and know what to expect.
"They'll get another full pre-season under their belt, which is a huge benefit for guys like that ... a lot of them are extremely talented, the young guys we've got coming through, and I'm excited about seeing them develop."
The new guys are also exciting Creagh.
The Dragons signed Melbourne five-eighth Gareth Widdop, Raiders players Joel Thompson and Sam Williams, Souths centre Dylan Farrell and English prop Mike Cooper, among others.
Creagh said it was the best batch of recruits he had seen during his time at the club.
Creagh, Price and others faced heavy criticism throughout the 2013 season, which ended with the Dragons in 14th place.
The captain stressed much of it was warranted.
"They [Dragons supporters] expect success and they expect good performances every week from their side," Creagh said.
"At times this year, it wasn't there.
"It was probably the most disappointing season I've played in since I've been at the club. There were a lot of games where we were pretty close and we just couldn't get over the line, but there were other games where our performances just weren't up to scratch.
"I hope that myself and the playing group can learn from last season. Eighty per cent's not good enough; playing for 60 minutes isn't good enough.
"We had a lot of young guys playing in the side by the end of the year, and I hope they learnt a lot from it.
"It's not good starting your first-grade career with so many disappointments but you learn from those types of losses and that type of disappointment.
"Hopefully, the guys will be better for it next year."