Dragons' new halfback Fien prepared for added pressure
HE has been thrown in as a stop-gap halfback option following Ben Hornby's retirement, but Nathan Fien believes he is ready to help the Dragons return to their dominant form under former coach Wayne Bennett.
Dragons coach Steve Price originally was thinking of putting the young Kyle Stanley in the playmaking position, but another season-ending knee injury prevented that from happening.
That after St George Illawarra missed out on snaring Storm halfback Cooper Cronk last year.
With new recruit Josh Drinkwater nipping at his heels, and the fact he is off contract at the end of this season, Fien knows he must deliver this year.
And the 33-year-old has welcomed the pressure with open arms.
"The ball's in my court this year," he said.
"Being given the halfback jersey hasn't exactly given me a new lease of life because this is my 14th year playing first-grade footy and I've always loved the game.
"But I've got interests outside of footy too - I just opened a coffee shop - and that's actually helped take my mind off the game a bit."
Fien, who has been a more than handy utility since joining the red and whites midway through 2009, has long craved the chance to return to halfback.
It was the Mt Isa junior who steered New Zealand to a World Cup victory in 2008, with the No.7 on his back.
He made it clear that was where he wanted to play in a chat with Price following former captain Ben Hornby's retirement at the end of last year.
"It's a great opportunity I've now been presented with, and I want to put my best foot forward and grab it with both hands," Fien said.
"Me and (five-eighth) Jamie Soward really focussed on our combination over the off-season and it's coming along well.
"Young Josh Drinkwater is really challenging me for my spot."
Fien is also excited to link up with fullback recruit and former Bronco Gerard Beale this year.
"He's looking really sharp and it's exciting," he said.
"He's a great ball-player and I see a bit of Darius Boyd in him."
Fien said Price has handled the knowledge that the Dragons are still in the hunt for a new coach next season, in light of missing out on Craig Bellamy, with a cool head.
"You wouldn't have even thought we were chasing Craig Bellamy - it's been business as usual for Pricey," Fien said.
Fien also said new captain Ben Creagh has led by example so far in pre-season training.