Not only has Wendell Sailor improved his fitness levels ready for 2009, but the former Bronco powerhouse speaks of the new found strength at the Dragons; gone are any perceived elements of softness.
Linking with former Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett at the Dragons, it’s Sailors first chance to get a full squad based pre-season under his belt.
While Sailor and Bennett go way back, big Dell confirmed that the new coach has certainly brought a confidence to the Dragons; something the Kiwi Rugby League team also boasted prior to taking out last years World Cup.
The focus at the Dragons has been on strength and experience. Bennett insisted in bringing in hard heads initially to firm up the forwards along with experience players that oozed confidence.
Enter Storm tough nut Jeremy Smith, Premiership winning rake Luke Priddis and the upcoming Darius Boyd have all tasted NRL glory, combine that with the swag of NRL titles won by Sailor and Bennett – you get the feeling the ‘also-ran’ mentality of the Dragons in recent decades might be about to be blown away.
Awaiting the completion of his drug ban this time last year, Sailor has been able to achieve peak fitness after a full pre-season. The powerful former outside back is reported have trimmed his figure down and increased his speed burst for 2009.
At the age of 34, Sailor seems happy to be amongst mates and competing again at the top level. If any of his previous ability has slipped, he makes up for it in confidence, something that his teammates seem to feed off.
”Benny said the Dragons won’t be soft and will turn up,” Sailor said.
“Wayne is pretty hard on me. If I’m taking a short cut, which I don’t take too many short cuts these days, but he knows what it takes to get me to my optimum.
“He is looking for me to lead the way,I’m going to make sure I push the guys.
“We’ve changed a little bit. Our defence will be more lethal. What we’ve got in attack and what we’ve been working on I think it gives our outside backs a lot more options a’la the Broncos style.”
After taking a 6 year break from all things Rugby League, Sailor touched down for 4 tries from8 appearances – but probably lacked a touch of luck in 08, copping injuries and struggling after limited fitness early on.
In 2008 Sailor was under the pump to keep his spot in the backs, but even with new talent on the edges such as Boyd, Dell believes can secure a consistent spot.
“I have trimmed down a couple of kilos. I have picked up a bit of speed and my fitness has improved.
“I didn’t have the hardness or the fitness in 2008.
“I have the confidence now for the next level.”