After breaking into the Raiders NRL line-up as a hooker, Matt McIlwrick is aiming to concentrate his efforts into the lock forward role in 2015 following a heart-to-heart chat with Ricky Stuart towards the end of last season.

"At the back end of the season I had a talk to Ricky and we both thought that lock would suit me a lot better than hooker," McIlwrick revealed. 

"Lock suits me a lot more than hooker because I can just concentrate on my running and tackling which is what I'm best at.

"Obviously the ability to play hooker is always going to be there but this pre-season I'm focusing a lot more on lock and I'm enjoying the challenge."

McIlwrick is renowned as one of the fittest players at the club and over the past three years has been at the peak of the club in terms of most physical testing measures.

Given the 24 year old's positional switch though, this pre-season has been been tougher than most that McIlwrick has faced.

"Every pre-season is very tough and this one is no different but you couldn't ask for a better bunch of blokes to go through the tough times with than what we've got this year," McIlwrick said.

"Transitioning from hooker to lock is a fair bit different so this pre-season has been harder in that regard. My fitness has always been there but I want to work more on my ball skills and learning the new position. I'm working on the technical side of things a lot more."

With the side's regular lock Shaun Fensom set to miss the opening few rounds of the competition following his knee reconstruction, the number 13 jersey is there for the taking. 

"Everyone has been putting their hand up this pre-season, especially the younger players, they've been outstanding," McIlwrick said. "

"We're all really looking forward to the start of 2015 and there's competition for spots everywhere which is healthy for the club."

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