Illawarra halfback Kade Reed admits to pinching himself as he rubbed shoulders with Dragons captain Ben Hunt through preseason, the experience leaving him primed to spearhead the Steelers SG Ball campaign.
The Steelers kicked off in winning fashion last week, with Reed showing all the poise you'd expect off the back of his first NRL preseason with the Dragons.
Given plenty of good judges are tipping Reed to one day wear the No. 7 jumper currently occupied by Hunt, the Wests Devils product said watching the Dragons skipper go about his business was a priceless opportunity.
"Just being there around those boys and training with people like Ben Hunt, it's hard to put into words, it was awesome," Reed said.
"He's been there and done it, he's played plenty of Origins, plenty of games for Australia. Just watching him and how he handles himself on and off the field, it's hard to describe.
"It's hard to make the NRL, but even harder to stay in the NRL and he's played 300 games, so seeing how he handles himself has been really motivating. I just try to take all the little things from his game and try and put them into mine.
"Training with those guys and just being around them, coming back and bringing that experience and things I've learned to the SG Ball boys has been pretty cool."
Flanagan making presence felt in junior ranks
Streamlining of the club's ethos down through its junior ranks has been a major part of Shane Flanagan's 'Dragons Way' philosophy since stepping into the NRL head coaching role.
It's something SG Ball coach Shaun Timmins is charged with drilling into the Steelers psyche, with Reed saying it's brought a lift in standards across the board.
"I've had a few chats with Flanno and, for me personally, I've just got to keep getting bigger and stronger," Reed said.
"That's my biggest thing, but he's definitely definitely big on all the junior stuff. He wants to bring as many young juniors through as possible.
"Timmo's there every day learning from Flanno and Deano (Dean Young) and those sorts of guys, so he's just bringing everything he's learning to us as well.
"He's obviously very experienced himself in playing Origins and playing for Australia. He's just bringing everything that he's got down to us boys and I think it's working well.
"Preseason was tough but you need to be fit and strong to compete with the big boys. I think we've done that well and we've put ourselves in a good position to go pretty well."
Steelers out to build on winning start
Timmins' side overcame a sluggish start that saw it trail 4-6 at halftime to pile on 22 points in the second stanza of a 26-12 win over the Rabbitohs in last week's season-opener.
With the finals cut inevitably tight each season, Reed said it's crucial the Steelers continue to bank early wins, with Saturday's road showdown with Canberra next on the agenda.
"It's such a short comp, so winning early on is so important," Reed said.
"Our draw probably gets harder as the year goes on, so it's important that we get these wins early. It'll be tough going up to Canberra, they're coming off the back of a loss, so they'll be fired up.
"I thought it got better as it went on last week, but there's definitely a few things to improve on from the first half.
"Our start needs to be better, but I think once we got the ball rolling in the second half, held on to the ball a bit and completed our sets, we looked pretty good.
"We've just got to start better this week and do exactly what we did in the second half for the the whole game. If we do that, we should put ourselves in a good position to win."
The Steelers Tarsha Gale Cup and Lisa Fiaola Cup sides are also in action in Canberra, while the Harold Matthews squad has a bye.