Mitch Rein is relishing the chance to play a full game in the key role against the Melbourne Storm in the 2015 season opener. Picture: ROBERT PEET
Dragons hooker Mitch Rein hopes to use a first-up test against the game’s best No 9 – Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith – to prove his days of sharing dummy-half duties are over.
Smith has been named to make an early return from an ankle injury to lead the Storm in their season-opener against the Dragons at Jubilee Oval on Monday night despite a limited preseason due to off-season surgery.
Rein was expected to again share dummy-half duties this year with veteran recruit Heath L’Estrange but, with four forwards named on the bench, Rein will need to go the distance against the Storm.
It won’t be the first time he’s done the journey and the 24-year-old is keen to make it a regular occurrence in 2015.
“In the last couple of years I’ve done 80 minutes a handful of times,” Rein said.
“With age comes a bit more experience. After sharing the hooking role in the past, I’d try to play 80-minute games the same way – getting carried away, trying to get in every tackle and every run.
“You just can’t sustain that amount of energy for 80 minutes so it’s just about being smart and managing yourself on the field if you want to play that full game.
“The more practice you get at it the better you get at being an 80-minute player.”
Smith was expected to be out of action until round four after carrying the ankle injury sustained during last year’s Origin series through the NRL season and Four Nations before undergoing surgery. It’s limited his time on the training paddock but Rein doesn’t think it will limit his impact on Monday.
“It doesn’t matter how much training or preparation he’s done in the off-season, he’s had ankle surgery and all the rest, but he always performs,” Rein said.
“He’s the best hooker in the world and we all know how good he is and how he controls the game so we’ll have our hands full.”
Coach Paul McGregor endorsed Rein as the club’s fittest man this week and said his early season form will have a big bearing on the Dragons’ style of play in the opening weeks.
“A lot will depend on Mitch’s form there in the next couple of weeks,” McGregor said.
“You take it one week at a time and you don’t know what you’re going to need week three or week four but for right now Mitch [playing 80 minutes] is what we need.”
Melbourne have won their past 10 season-openers and McGregor isn’t buying talk that they are a side on the wane.
“Everyone’s writing them off and saying they won’t make the eight but I find that very hard to believe.”
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