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High ranking South Sydney recruit Terry Hill said the Rabbitohs would be "ultra-competitive" in 2004.
Souths have been National Rugby League cellar-dwellers since their return to the competition two years ago, this year only winning three of 24 matches.
But Hill, who began his career with Souths in 1990, said he had been impressed with the enthusiasm at the club since his return from the Wests Tigers.
"This has been the best off-season in a few years (at the club)," Hill said. "(Coach) Paul Langmack's got a good squad assembled.
"If we can keep the nucleus of the team together, I think we will be ultra-competitive." That nucleus will include 31-year old Hill and former Newcastle winger Adam MacDougall, who join skipper Bryan Fletcher as the most experienced players at the club. The Tigers' Willie Manu, St George Illawarra's Dean Byrne and Bulldogs trio Shane Marteene, Glen Hall and Todd Polglaze have also joined the club for the new season. Hill has enjoyed a good relationship with Langmack, who was assistant coach at the Tigers in 2001.
The former NSW and Australian centre said he was more than likely to play in the back row, continuing his switch in recent seasons from the backs.
"I'll probably play in the forwards but wherever they need me to play, I'll play," he said.
They will meet St George Illawarra in the traditional Charity Shield match in February and open the NRL season with a match against grand finalists the Roosters on March 14.