Dragons star Trent Merrin says knew the NRL club would be a premiership force in 2014.

Trent Merrin says he knew St George Illawarra would start the NRL year well by the way the Dragons ripped into a torrid pre-season.

With the Dragons welcoming a host of new players for 2014 – including Gareth Widdop, Sam Williams, Mike Cooper and Dylan Farrell – Merrin said he was determined to be a key force for a side desperate to rebound from two years’ absence from the finals.

Despite a heavy loss to South Sydney in the pre-season Charity Shield, Merrin said he had faith the Dragons were on course.

“We had a lot of people writing us off and it was something we wanted to turn around, you can tell from the start of our season how good our pre-season was,” Merrin told AAP.

“I can’t remember all the (season) starts we have had, we have had some bad ones and this is a great way to start the year, all the boys are really enjoying it.

“This year was one of the hardest pre-seasons I have done, I had total faith in the group.

“I just knew we would have a good season. Everyone wrote us off after the Charity Shield but I still had faith.

“We had new players in the team, those combinations had to come together, it’s good to bond at training but in a game when you have another team coming at you it is a big test.”

Ladder leaders the Dragons meet Brisbane in Wollongong on Friday night in a genuine test of both side’s premiership credentials.

The two teams have emerged as the early-season surprise packets with the Dragons enjoying an undefeated start after three rounds and the Broncos’ only loss a last-gasp loss to premiers the Sydney Roosters last Friday night.

With Widdop receiving much of the accolades for the Dragons’ impressive form, Merrin is something of an unsung hero.

He says he was determined to be a key player at the club this year.

“I wanted to be the player that everyone wants to play with and when I get on that field I am there for good,” he said.

Josh Dugan (knee) hasn’t been named in the Dragons’ side but Broncos coach Anthony Griffin said on Thursday he expected the star fullback to be a late inclusion for his first game of the year.