Dragons captain Trent Barrett admits to feeling a "bit nervous" for his season kick-off against the Manly Sea Eagles at WIN Stadium this Sunday.
Barrett, 25, has had a frustrating start to the 2003 Telstra premiership season, being forced to watch from the sideline after breaking a bone in his ankle during the World Sevens quarter-finals against Manly on February 2.
"This is the start of the season for me and I'm excited and a bit nervous. I haven't had a normal pre-season," Barrett said today. . "I don't really get that nervous before a game but I am a bit nervous about how my body will hold up. I'm really looking forward to getting out there and I'm sure once I'm on the field I won't think about it.
"I won't be doing anything different with my strapping; I want to keep things as normal as possible. I don't want to go in there favouring it and I don't want anything to remind me that I've had an injury."
Barrett said he felt "pretty helpless" watching from the sidelines as the Dragons won one of their first three matches.
"We've been a bit patchy; we probably should have won three from three," he said. "One of the positives though was how well the young blokes who made their debuts went - that was a good thing for the club."
Barrett and fellow international Shaun Timmins, 26, are among three changes to the Dragons this week, along with winger Hassan Saleh, who missed the Canberra match through suspension. Timmins last played on September 1 against the Roosters before having an operation on his right knee.
They have come into the side at the expense of fullback Reece Simmonds, winger David Howell and reserve Henry Perenara, who have been relegated to Premier League.
Ben Hornby, who stood in for Barrett during his absence, will return to his preferred position at fullback in place of Simmonds, while Barrett will start at five-eighth. Saleh will start on the wing, while Timmins has been named on a bench of six players with two to be omitted.
Dragons coach Nathan Brown had no hesitation in putting Timmins and Barrett straight back into first grade, but said it was difficult dropping Simmonds after he had been playing so well.
"It's very hard for Reece when he's been going well, but we always told Ben Hornby he would have first crack at fullback - because Trent was injured he's had to play five-eighth. It would have been tough on him to not give him that chance now," Brown said.
"Having Trent back is going to make a difference in close situations. He's a match-winner and Shaun gives us plenty of enthusiasm and aggression.
"They give a lot of hope and confidence to the players around them, especially the young blokes."
-------------------------------------------------- Trent Barrett, Shaun Timmins and Hassan Saleh are the changes at the expense of Reece Simmonds, Henry Perenara and David Howell.
TEAM LIST - DRAGONS V SEA EAGLES Sunday, April 13 - WIN Stadium, Wollongong
NRL 3:00PM, Premier League 1:00PM Head Coach: Nathan Brown
1. Ben Hornby 2. Amos Roberts 3. Mark Gasnier 4. Matt Cooper 5. Hassan Saleh 6. Trent Barrett (c) 7. Brett Firman 8. Luke Bailey 9. Mark Riddell 10. Ian Donnelly 11. Brent Kite 12. Lance Thompson 13. John Cross 14. Ryan Tandy 15. Nathan Tutt 16. Dean Young 17. Dean Byrne 18. Mathew Head 19. Shaun Timmins Two to be omitted