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Brown Knows He Must Perform
St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown is still a new chum by NRL standards.
The 30-year-old has been around the game long enough to realise a thing or two about life in the NRL.
And rule No.1 in the coaching game is you live and die by your results , you either perform or perish.
"If I don't go any good this year I won't have a job," Brown says only weeks from the most important season of his embryonic coaching career.
"The boss (chief executive Peter Doust) and I are good mates but I know where I stand.
"Hopefully everything will go alright. If they don't I probably won't be here next year."
Leading a classy squad is captain Trent Barrett.
The 26-year-old missed all but five games last season due to an ankle injury, which also cost him a place on the Kangaroo tour to the U.K, but has thrown himself into his pre-season work.
Brown will let Barrett off the leash in the Charity Shield and he's already noticed a change in the Test five-eighth.
"This might sound funny but I think having last year off has made him a more mature player," Brown says.
"Trent has always been a guy who's been a great trainer, a great follower and loves his footy.
"He'd listen and learn but he'd never ask any questions about the purpose of doing things.
"He's asking lots of questions now and he's got to the stage of his life where he really wants to learn.
"I think last year he had all that time off and thought I haven't got long left.
"It's not that he's going to go out in a game and try to play like Wally Lewis, but he can see the purpose in things."
That's the sort of news the Dragons want to hear and bad news for their opposition.
A backline consisting of a more mature Barrett, emerging half Brett Firman, classy centres Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper, unsung fullback Ben Hornby and try-hungry winger Nathan Blacklock rivals any in the game.
The forward pack should more than hold its own, although the possible loss of Test prop Jason Ryles (shoulder) for the season is a bitter pill to swallow.
His front row partner Luke Bailey was a standout last year, hooker Mark Riddell's talent is unquestioned and Lance Thompson has put his troubles behind him.
The key is Shaun Timmins, who will play lock this season after filling in very ably for Barrett in the No.6 jersey last year.
He has the potential to make the No.13 jersey his own at club and at an even higher level.
Brown has also added former Cronulla forward Nathan Long, a signing that looks inspired considering the uncertainty surrounding Ryles' immediate future.
"You can't always rely on a group of new young kids who haven't played first grade," Brown said.
"Someone might have lesser talent but they're more mature and that bloke can play consistently for a longer period of time."
Brown is hoping he won't have to cope with the same problems that plagued his side last season.
Injuries affected the Dragons and, with the finals within reach, they lost five of their final six games to finish in 10th place - below expectations for a club which starts every season expecting to be in the premiership mix.
Those broken bones and torn ligaments did, however, have a positive spin-off.
"Consistency is the biggest thing we have talked about this year," Brown says.
"If that's not good enough, it's not good enough.
"If we get the 17 guys on the park doing that we're confident we can be competitive."