A serious knee injury to halfback Drew Hutchison might have forced the Dragons to rejig their pre-season plans, but skipper Gareth Widdop is confident the club is well-placed to handle his loss.
Hutchison tore the ACL in his left knee at training in mid-December, with club doctors confirming the young halfback would be sidelined for the majority of the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.
It was a cruel blow for the Albion Park-Oat Flats junior, with the 21-year-old the early favourite to take over from Benji Marshall in the No.7 jersey.
With his likely halves partner set to miss most of 2017, Widdop offered his younger teammate sage advice, telling Hutchison that his best years were still ahead of him despite the injury setback.
Widdop is confident the Dragons can handle Hutchison's loss, telling Dragons TV that the club had "a lot of depth in that position".
Hutchison's injury opens the door for veteran Josh McCrone to add to his 140 games in the NRL, while uncapped players such as Shaun Nona and Matt Dufty could also come into calculations.
"It's certainly disappointing for Drew," Widdop said.
"He's had a great pre-season, trained really well and had a huge opportunity ahead of himself. Unfortunately that's football and things don't always go to plan.
"He's still young, he's still got plenty of years ahead of him and he'll get back on the field in no time.
"In regards to the halfback position, I'm not too sure. They've all been training great. Josh McCrone has played 150-200 games so he's certainly well-experienced in that position.
"Like I said, it's only early on, but no doubt over the next few weeks, months we'll narrow it down."
Widdop was one of several returning players at Dragons training as the Red V began phase two of their pre-season workload.
With fresh faces galore greeting the Englishman on the training paddock, Widdop said there were exciting times ahead for the Dragons who will be keen to improve on last year's eleventh-place finish.
"Obviously I've only been here this morning, we had a tough fitness test and we've got some new recruits and some good young fellas," he said.
"Cameron McInnes coming here, he's done really well in his testing. We've got a lot of young talent in the squad. It's a young squad this year, a lot of them have come through the 20s (Holden Cup) which is great to see. The club's moving in the right direction."