No midyear blues for red-hot Dragons
IT is usually the mid-season blues. This year it's the NSW Blues.
Unlike previous seasons of heartbreaking failure, St George Illawarra have shown they're ready to conquer the mental and physical hurdles thrown onto their path towards an NRL premiership.
At ANZ Stadium on Monday afternoon, the Dragons had four Origin players backing up in a gritty yet important 18-16 win over Canterbury.
It was a character-building victory.
The Dragons have built a reputation of starting a season fast and crashing out.
In 2017 the Red-V were top of the table in May, yet missed the finals.
This year though, they look different. They look tough and resilient. They look like winners.
Victory on Monday elevated St George Illawarra back above Penrith on top of the NRL competition table.
"Your attitude comes from your belief, our belief is strong so obviously our attitude is there," Dragons coach Paul McGregor said.
"Your attitude is your behaviour and your behaviour turns into your action.
"So, for us, we're very happy to get the result on back end of that. The boys kept finding something, which is really important.
"We came here to win and we got the win. We're happy. We have a different attitude."
Saints skipper Gareth Widdop added: "I'd like to think we have learnt from the past. We have a lot of belief about what we're about.
"Certainly we're playing with a lot of belief."
Dragons Jack de Belin, Paul Vaughan, Tyson Frizell and Ben Hunt played yesterday after contesting Origin I last Wednesday.
Blues forward David Klemmer turned out for the Bulldogs too.
Despite the win, McGregor refused to look too far ahead.
"I can't see around corners so I don't know what's coming next," he said. "We still have a couple of Origins to get through and a Denver Test match to get through.
"We have a really tight schedule over the next months but we have things in place. We are sending one of our performance staff over there (to Denver)."
It was a gripping finish on Monday before 21,376 fans with Canterbury having a scrum feed 10 metres from Saints' goal line with just five seconds remaining.
Time for just one play.
The Bulldogs went right and sent a kick back across field for winger Brett Morris, which was taken by Dragons winger Kurt Mann to seal the victory.
"It's a new year and a different team," Widdop said. "Although we didn't play our best football it was certainly pleasing to get the two points.
"Obviously the Origin boys backed up and did a good job. We scrapped out a win which is tough in the NRL."