St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale has warned Dragons fans not to expect the second coming of Darius Boyd in the NRL club’s new fullback Gerard Beale.
Beale has followed a similar path to Boyd in leaving Brisbane for the Dragons in a bid to find a permanent home at fullback.
Boyd established himself as one of the NRL’s pre-eminent custodians during his three years at the Dragons – his value highlighted during the 2012 campaign when the club failed to find an adequate replacement following Boyd’s departure to Newcastle.
Now Beale has been anointed as the Dragons’ first-choice No.1, and while he will look to offer the same ball-playing role Boyd perfected in the red and white, Nightingale said the two fullbacks had contrasting strengths.
“Gerard’s definitely a very different player to Darius, he won’t be another Darius Boyd,” Nightingale told AAP.
“He’ll be Gerard Beale, and that’s what we’re looking forward to seeing.”
The Dragons tried three different options at fullback last year, with Kyle Stanley, Brett Morris and finally Nightingale all given a crack at the demanding role.
Stanley struggled with the fitness aspect of the role, while Morris and Nightingale had plenty of speed but were found wanting when it came time to be a creative force.
In Beale, Nightingale believes the Dragons have all bases covered.
“It’s his own individual style – his footwork and his strength are probably his key and he’s a better ball-player than me and Brett which helps,” Nightingale said.
“He’s got a bit of everything in there, but we need to let him be his own player.
“That’s probably the big thing we’ve tried in the past, is trying to turn every fullback into Billy Slater or Ben Barba.
“If you look at the Billy Slaters and the Ben Barbas, the things that they are good at are natural things, it’s not stuff that’s been coached into them – it’s their natural flair, their natural ability.
“Gerard has got oodles of that – he just needs to be confident in himself.”
Fans won’t get a better chance than Sunday to compare Beale’s style to that of Slater when Melbourne host the Dragons in the opening round of the season.