St George Illawarra have lost a world-class player in Gareth Widdop but Corey Norman is confident he can step up and replace him as the Dragons eye off a rapid return to the finals.
Teams that finish 15th and lose a star like Widdop aren't often expected to surge up the ladder but Norman was bullish about his team's chances of achieving the feat.
When asked who would step up to fill the void left by Widdop’s departure, Norman said: “I back myself for that. Benny Hunt is there as well and he is quality player and Cam McInnes is quality as well so I think it’s the spine’s job to step up," he said.
"All of us need to step up so I am looking forward to that."
And when asked about his personal goal for the 2020 season, the Dragons five-eighth replies without hesitation: “My team getting to the finals for a start."
Norman joined St George Illawarra last January from 2018 wooden-spooners Parramatta and again finished in a team near the bottom of the ladder, with the Dragons only bettering the Gold Coast.
Despite being called into the Queensland camp for Origin II in Perth, the 28-year-old is aware the performances of the Eels and Dragons during the past two seasons will eventually have some impact on him unless St George Illawarra have more success in 2020.
"When a team goes well the halves normally get a pat on the back and when a team goes bad you get the bag as well," Norman said.
"It comes with the territory and with two bad seasons some of it has got to come back on me as well.
"I think I definitely need a big one this year.
"For me it is not really an individual thing. I just want to win. The last two years I think I have won 15 games or something like that  so I just want my team to go well and win. I just want the club to get back on track."
With Widdop leaving for English club Warrington, Norman knows his position won’t change after he and the former captain spent a decent chunk of last season swapping between the five-eighth and fullback roles.
Norman was initially signed to replace Widdop in 2020 but when the opportunity arose for him to leave Parramatta earlier the Dragons dropped plans to recruit another winger and brought the playmaker to Wollongong last season.
The recent signing of Issac Luke also means Hunt is unlikely to spend any time at dummy half, so Norman won’t need to shift into the halfback role, while Zac Lomax will start the season at fullback.
"There was no confusion so I am not going to make excuses up. We just didn’t perform last year, it is as simple as that. We still had the roster to do a lot better than we did," Norman said.
However, after arriving shortly before the start of last season, Norman admits he "didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes".
"I think there will be a lot more consistency around our spine this year and being here from day one in the pre-season, it feels a lot better as well," he said. "I came to the team last year in a bit of a weird way."
The Dragons have made eight changes to their coaching and training staff for next season, including the appointment of premiership-winning former Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan as an assistant to Paul McGregor.