‘Are we the form team now?’ ask cheeky McGregor
"ARE we the form team of the competition?"
That was the cheeky sledge from Dragons coach Paul McGregor after leading his side to a stunning elimination final upset over Brisbane on Sunday
St George Illawarra will face South Sydney in a dream semi-final in what shapes as a historic weekend of finals in the NRL era.
Not only will it be the first time the Dragons face the foundation club in a finals match since their merger with Illawarra in 1999, but Penrith also have a first finals date with Cronulla in the other semi.
The Panthers and Sharks entered the competition at the same time in 1967.
The Dragons will have to do so without skipper Gareth Widdop, who re-injured his shoulder in Sunday's elimination final win over Brisbane and is likely out for the rest of the finals.
The early diagnosis is more positive for forward Jack de Belin, who came off with an ankle injury but is confident of recovering in time to take on the Rabbitohs.
Prop James Graham should also be right to play after suffering a game-ending concussion.
"They're all big at this time of the year," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said of the looming clash.
"We'll enjoy what we've just done then, but the expectations will be on the opposition again so we'll just enjoy that."
The contest at ANZ Stadium could eclipse the record 36,084 crowd between the two sides set in a Charity Shield fixture back in 2002.
Incredibly, the Dragons will enter the match in superior form, with their 48-18 finals rout of the Broncos giving them three wins in their past four games.
Their return to form is a source of humour for the Dragons coach after they limped into seventh with just three wins from the last nine regular-season rounds.
"Are we the form team now we've won three of the last four?" McGregor chirped, insisting that the flak his side had copped over the last two months hadn't got to him.
"That's their job, to praise or criticise ... that's part of the 24-7 news cycle.
"We can look at our last four weeks instead of the last nine if you like, but everyone would rather look at that last nine because everyone would rather a negative story than a positive one."
The heat will be on the Rabbitohs to bounce back after a dramatic 29-28 loss to Melbourne on Friday made it four losses from their last five games.
Cronulla, toppled 21-12 by the Sydney Roosters, have also been beset by injury, with star second-rower Wade Graham tearing his ACL six weeks after suffering a medial ligament tear in the same knee.
The Sharks take on the Panthers, who beat the New Zealand Warriors on Saturday, at Allianz Stadium, where they could also threaten to break their highest crowd figure between the two sides of 25,004 at the SCG in 1978.
The Roosters will sit back and watch next week but have concerns of their own with star centre Latrell Mitchell set to miss the preliminary final unless he can overturn a dangerous contact charge.