Price feels the butterflys

Rugby league veteran Steve Price suffered from first-day nerves when he joined his New Zealand Warriors teammates in Auckland this week.

Price, an 11-year stalwart at 2004 NRL premiers the Bulldogs, and fellow new boy Nathan Fien were on hand when Warriors began their pre-season campaign on Monday.

"It's a bit like school, the first time you go to a new school you're a little bit nervous but excited. That's the way I was," Price said.

Still nursing a brace on his left knee after surgery a fortnight ago, Price is itching to jump back into training but first faces another four weeks of rehabilitation.

"Before Christmas I'll be back to normal, I'm hoping," Price said.

The former Bulldogs skipper and prop was disappointed but positive after missing his side's grand final win, having suffered ligament damage to his knee in the preliminary final against Penrith.

"Obviously the finish we had at the Bulldogs was a great way to finish; close that book, open up a new one."

His focus now is on the Warriors, who finished second last on the NRL ladder.

"Where the club finished this year is certainly no reflection on the potential of the club," Price said.

"I just know that with a few things, a little bit of hard work, that the club would certainly be back up where it was and that's where it should be - around the top four, around the top eight.

"It's going to be week in, week out work, and playing very well consistently is going to be the most important thing for this team."

Former North Queensland halfback Fien is also confident the Warriors - NRL grand finalists two years ago and semifinalists last year - can recover after a disappointing 2004 season.

"With the talented players that are here, we know that if we put in a really good off-season and train really hard and get our fitness base up, we're going to match it with any side in the comp next year," Fien said.

Fien said he was glad to be part of the Cowboys' finals campaign this year but had no regrets about joining the Warriors.

"I'm very much looking forward to the challenge and getting the Warriors back to where we all know they should be, which is in the finals."

The Warriors have two other new signings for 2005, Kiwi captain and Canberra stalwart Ruben Wiki and Roosters outside back Todd Byrne.

Wiki is one of eight Warriors missing the early pre-season activities due to international duties with the Kiwis on the Tri-Nations tour.

Wiki and Price are in line for the Warriors' captaincy after Monty Betham stepped down from the role, with Price expecting to take on a leadership role whether he becomes skipper or not.

"Whoever gets the C put next to their name, I'll fully respect and support that," Price said.

"If I was asked to do it I'd love to do it, but if I wasn't it wouldn't make me any more or less a person in my desire to play as well as I can for the Warriors."