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You know it's December when the NRL news cycle is being dominated by reports of players emerging from their break in career-best shape.

Such claims are always best taken with a grain of salt and will ultimately be put to the test come the Pre-Season Challenge in February, but in the case of Josh Kerr it's almost certainly actually true.

The 27-year-old Dolphins prop has returned to training under the Queensland sun a whopping 10kgs lighter than his playing weight last season, with an improved mental state and a classic Wayne Bennett off-season program cited as the major reasons for the transformation.

"There's definitely been a lot of work in that off-season. I just wasn't happy with myself in the last few years," Kerr said. 

I sort of let myself go. I was having my own mental battles, but being part of this team with these boys and this culture under Wayne as well, it's given me that drive again.

Josh Kerr

"Every single session is at high intensity, something that I really haven't trained at for such a long period before."

Now on track to begin his first full campaign with the Dolphins – following a mid-season move there from the Dragons in 2023 – at around 102kgs, Kerr is hoping his slimline frame will help him push for a starting role, something he's managed to do just once over the past two NRL seasons. 

Gilbert, Kerr, Averillo and Nikorima preview the season ahead

While new recruit Tom Flegler is the early frontrunner to start alongside captain Jesse Bromwich up front, Brisbane-born Kerr is also an option in the back row where he played on several occasions for St George Illawarra in the past.

"Everyone always says they just want to be part of that 17, but I want to be a starter in this team," Kerr said.

"To be starting next to someone like Jesse [Bromwich], Mark [Nicholls] or even Tommy Gilbert, that's the dream for me at the moment. 

"I want to play every single game... I want to be someone that is here for a very long time, especially in a starting role." 

In 2024 Kerr will also be aiming to make the finals for the first time in his five-season career, with a 40 percent winning rate with the Dragons in 2021 being his best campaign to date.

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