2021 NRL Round 04 - Newcastle Knights v St. George Illawarra Dragons, McDonald Jones Stadium, 2021-04-04. Digital image by Shane Myers � NRL Photos
2021 NRL Round 04 - Newcastle Knights v St. George Illawarra Dragons, McDonald Jones Stadium, 2021-04-04. Digital image by Shane Myers � NRL Photos

The team proving season shouldn’t be lopsided mess

Attention Canterbury, Manly and North Queensland.

Go and watch the replay of St George Illawarra's brave and bruising win over Newcastle before you go out and play this weekend.

Because right here is the proof that this year's NRL competition doesn't have to be the lopsided mess it has been so far in the early rounds.

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The Dragons really took it to Newcastle on Sunday.
The Dragons really took it to Newcastle on Sunday.

Not if all teams and all players turn up with the same passion, spirit and intensity that is finally restoring pride in the famous Red V.

The Dragons' three straight wins for the first time since the early stages of 2019 shows what can happen when players really have a go.

When they not only believe in their own ability but that of their teammates, no matter who is playing and who is not.

And when they also believe in their coach. And better still, back his plan. In attack and defence.

It all sounds so simplistic and clichéd.

But it's not.

Not when you see the Dragons come charging off the line and defend with every ounce of intent like they did in Newcastle on Sunday.

No matter who on the opposition team was running the ball back at them, they just had an attitude that they wanted to rip in as hard as they could on every tackle.

 

And they didn't stand back and wait for someone else to take the game by the scruff of the neck, but players like Tariq Sims went out and hunted it down.

And so did Blake Lawrie when he continually went after Daniel Saifiti and David Klemmer.

Lawrie hasn't got near the reputation as either of the Knights' enforcers but he didn't take a backward step all game.

And with Ben Hunt missing, little Adam Clune grabbed his opportunity.

So did Brayden Wiliame who came into the centres for the suspended Jack Bird.

And you could see the absolute intent in Zac Lomax's eyes every time he came into the game.

Corey Norman is finally playing like the result really does matter to him.

Where has that been?

And how much of the credit belongs to the new coach is probably the biggest question?

Because right now Anthony Griffin has every one of the Dragons playing like it is a privilege just to be in the NRL.

Anthony Griffin has the Dragons firing. Picture Dragons Media
Anthony Griffin has the Dragons firing. Picture Dragons Media

And they want to show that they are not just in this competition to make up the numbers.

Yes, there is a legitimate argument about the gap in quality between some of the best and worst rosters.

Yet as the Dragons are showing this season, attitude is almost always the biggest difference, even though it rarely gets the credit it deserves.

Because as Tyrell Fuimaono is showing every week when he runs out wearing Jack de Belin's former No.13 jumper, you don't have to get paid the big bucks or be a State of Origin star to turn up and play to the best of your ability.

But at least if you turn up with the right attitude, you will stand a chance.

This is not meant to be disrespectful to the players either, but it's just the reality that no team has got a significantly worse roster than the Dragons this year.

A team most had in the conversation to be challenging for the wooden spoon.

And with the exception of the Knights, none have a worse injury toll either.

St George Illawarra aren’t letting anybody push them around this season.
St George Illawarra aren’t letting anybody push them around this season.

Yes, the Sea Eagles and Cowboys are missing key players.

But the Dragons were also without almost $3 million of their salary cap in the shape of Hunt, Cameron McInnes, Bird and de Belin going into this game.

Yet instead of using it as an excuse, they took motivation from it. And they played like it meant everything to them.

Yes, we are only four rounds into the season.

And, yes, the Dragons' wins so far have come against other struggling teams in the shape of the Cowboys, Sea Eagles and Knights.

And of course, the Dragons face their toughest test this weekend when they take on Parramatta at Bankwest.

That will no doubt give us an even better indication of exactly where they are at with respect to the competition heavyweights.

But just going on what we have seen so far, it is clear that Griffin's old school mentality is working and he is not the dinosaur some had made him out to be.

Because his simple game plan, that has often been criticised as being too out of date for the modern game, has obviously made a huge difference to a footy team that hasn't played with this much passion and pride for years.

Originally published as The team proving season shouldn't be lopsided mess



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