Why birthday boy Mark Gasnier’s not popping champagne

Mark GasnierBirthday boy Mark Gasnier was sporting a Cheshire Cat grin after scoring the winning try on Friday night, but he claims he is still a long way from securing his place in the Dragons’ inevitable finals campaign.Turning 29 today, Gasnier savoured his early birthday present when he sealed his first victory back in the Red V since leaving for French rugby two winters ago.But while he may be wishing for an elusive premiership as he blows out the candles on his cake today, Gasnier is adamant he is prepared to do the hard work and not rely on his past reputation – or status as a former club captain – to ensure him a position in the team. Full coverage of the Dragons “I’ve just got to fit into their plans, you never know,” he said.”(Coach Wayne Bennett) might say we’ve got someone back and you’re out (of the team).”I enjoy training with the guys each week and I’ve taken some stuff out of that.”Not trying to play it down, but I can only take each week as it comes.”Gasnier said his return to the NRL has been helped by becoming more comfortable in his home life since returning for Sydney from Paris and securing his future with the Dragons deal worth almost $2 million over the next 4? years.”I’m starting to settle in a little bit,” he said.”I’ve moved into a house and life has started to get a little bit of routine.”When I got home (from France) it was kind of here, there and everywhere.”Now it’s … I wouldn’t say settled, but I’m hopefully starting to get there.”Gasnier’s former NSW team-mate Matt Cooper is expected back from a hamstring injury for Friday night’s showdown with the struggling Gold Coast Titans, while boom youngster Kyle Stanley is also in the selection mix.But Gasnier’s football has started to talk following a fumbling effort in his first game back against Penrith.The ex-Australian star is quick to declare he appreciates the 16 tackles he made against Souths on Friday night so much more than four points to seal victory.He also enjoyed the toil of making 11 runs for 83m and one tackle break in the thrilling 16-13 victory at ANZ Stadium.Because while Gasnier may have secured two all-important NRL competition points in the Dragons’ surge towards a second consecutive minor premiership, the former skipper is keeping his focus on about seven weeks’ time.Once the side-stepping, attacking genius who had Dragons fans watching on in awe, Gasnier is remodelling and rebuilding his game from the ground up. It’s why when his team-mates were sunning themselves on beaches, partying interstate or generally kicking back during the Dragons’ bye last week, Gasnier was putting in the hard yards under the watchful eye of Dragons physio Andrew Gray to ensure he was catching up on the fitness he needs to be a force in the finals series.But Gasnier knows nothing replaces the tackling – and being tackled – in the heat of battle.”If you didn’t have to go up and back 10 (metres) and I was on the wing or something it might be easier,” Gasnier said, perhaps momentarily reflecting on his time with Stade Francais.”But it’s not, it’s hard and it’s just a matter of you can’t really do anything besides play, it’s the only way you’re going to get used to it.”It’s the only way you’re going to get better.”
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