Discussion in 'St George Illawarra Dragons' started by getsmarty, Nov 29, 2016.

  1. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    MacDonald relieved to be off the nudie run

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    3 Apr 2017, 3 p.m.

    Nene MacDonald celebrates his first try in Dragons colours.

    THE Dragons have been the NRL’s runaway scoring leader over the opening five rounds and new recruit Nene MacDonald was happy to finally get in on the act with his first four-pointer in his new club’s colours against the Tigers on Sunday.

    The PNG International finished the 2016 season in a rich vein of try-scoring form with eight tries in the Gold Coast’s last 12 games before shifting south to the Dragons.

    MacDonald said he was relieved to finally make his mark on the try-scoring tally in what was also his 50th NRL game.

    “It was a long time coming,” MacDonald said.

    “Being out on the wing I expected it to score earlier. I’ve been waiting a while but it’s good to get off the nudie [run].

    “The boys effort in defence was awesome. We defended back to back sets I don’t know how many times on our line and we just kept holding them out.

    “They got a lucky try with the grubber through but the boys effort in defence was the big key for us.”
  2. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Dragons confidence built on defence

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    3 Apr 2017, 3:41 p.m.

    DEFENSIVE MINDSET: Jason Nightingale says defence remains the Dragons' foundation-stone despite their improved attack. Picture: Getty Images

    THE Dragons are fast becoming the NRL’s entertainers, but veteran winger Jason Nightingale insists his side’s confidence has soared on the back of defence in their hot start to the season.

    Nightingale scored his second career hat-trick against the Tigers on Sunday as the Dragons against cruised past the 20-point mark for the third time in five matches, a feat they could only manage in 24 games last season.

    It sees the Dragons averaging a league-high 26 points, a stat that’s grabbed most attention given a lean past two seasons in the points for column.

    The fact that only league leaders Melbourne have conceded less points has not grabbed the fans attention but Nightingale said that it remains the foundation of the Dragons 4-1 start to the year, including their impressive 28-6 win over the Tigers on Sunday.

    “The most pleasing thing out of that whole game was the fact we defended really well and when we did get down their end through building pressure we were able to capitalise most times,’ Nightingale said.

    “We stuck to our defensive patterns and were able to build pressure through that and to get across the line.

    “We made the most of our opportunities and managed to get some really good ball in that first half and it led to a few tries.

    “The best thing is the opportunities we have had [this year] we’ve capitalised on, where in the past we probably haven’t done that and lost a bit of confidence.

    “I think the fact that we know we can score points now means as long as we defend we’ll win games.

    “Especially the last few weeks haven’t been the prettiest wins against Cronulla, the Warriors and [the Tigers] but I think the fact our defence has held strong and we haven’t conceded many points is the reason we’ve won.

    Nightingale proved the major beneficiary of skipper Gareth Widdop’s return to form on Sunday, with the English International having a hand in four of the Dragons five tries. It saw Nightingale notch his treble by halftime, and go halfway towards matching his entire 2016 tally, in the space of just 30 minutes, something he attributes to a collective effort to ease the pressure on their captain.

    “He’s going great, he’s got a lot of ability and I think he’s remembering how good he is,” Nightingale said.

    “I think it’s pretty difficult for halves. They cop a lot of scrutiny and they’re under a lot of pressure to control the team and he’s doing a great job of that.

    “I think everyone’s taking the pressure off him. We’ve got Josh McCrone there with a very solid head, Cameron McInnes at hooker to get the ball to him when he needs it.

    “I think all the players in our spine, Duges as well, are helping Gareth with his role and enabling him to focus on what his strengths are.”
  3. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Mann heads list of contenders to replace Dugan

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    3 Apr 2017, 4 p.m.

    MR FIXIT: Kurt Mann. Picture: Getty Images

    HE’S played sparingly from the bench in three of his four games this season, but St George Illawarra utility Kurt Mann is now shaping as a key man for the Dragons following a hamstring injury to star fullback Josh Dugan.

    Dugan underwent scans on Monday after hobbling from from the field midway through the second half of the Dragons victory over Wests Tigers on Sunday.

    The scans confirmed a grade 1.5 hamstring strain that is likely to keep him out of action until at least the Dragons Anzac Day clash with the Roosters in round eight.

    Mann turned in his first 80-minute performance of the season against the Tigers, filling in at right centre for the injured Euan Aitken before shifting to fullback when Dugan left the field in the 58th minute.

    He remains the front-runner to fill the void at No. 1, though young guns Jai Field – who club recruitment chief Ian Millward has tipped a s future long-term fullback – and Matt Dufty will no doubt come into consideration.

    Should Mann get the nod it would a be a second coming of sorts with the club having recruited him from Melbourne last season to play in the No. 1 and allow Dugan to switch to the centres – an experiment that was aborted after just two games.

    Dugan is off-contract this season and remains publicly at odds with Millward over his positional future at the club, meaning his stint on the sidelines could ultimately see Mann, also off-contract this season, auditioning for the role long-term.

    Having admittedly let his first opportunity at the back slip last season, Mann said he’s determined to make it count this time around.

    “I had a bit of a shot there last year and it didn’t really work out for me. I wasn’t in great form at the start of the year and I lost my chance there,” Mann said.

    “Hopefully I can fill [Dugan’s] shoes there for a while until he’s back. I grew up playing at fullback and in the halves so that’s where I like playing.

    "I played the first trial this year and played 80 minutes at fullback, so I’ve spent some time there.

    “I did the full preseason last year at fullback as well so I know what I’ve got to when I’m playing there.

    “It is a good opportunity to show them what I’m capable of when I’m wearing the No. 1 but Duges is a quality player.

    “He’s an Origin fullback, so I’ll do my best while he’s out and just see what happens after that.”

    Admittedly “chomping at the bit” after seeing little on-field over the opening five rounds, Mann earned high praise from McGregor for his effort against the Tigers, something that wasn’t lost on the 24-year-old.

    “Mary knows it’s been pretty hard for me the last couple weeks, especially after the season I had last year,” Mann said.

    “He knows hoaw hard it’s and he’s been trying to get me some minutes, he just hasn’t been able to, but he’s always spoken to me about just staying ready for when that opportunity comes.

    “I’ve been getting minimal minutes lately, just playing a role off the bench and covering for a few boys but with Euan being injured it was good to get an opportunity to get a few minutes and show what I’m capable of.

    “I did a whole preseason, 15 weeks of training, so I’ve been chomping at the bit to get out there and play a bit of footy and was good to go out there and have a crack.”
  4. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Widdop 'remembering how good he is': Nightingale
    Tue 4th April, 10:00AM
    A A

    By Chris Kennedy, National Correspondent

    St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale says he was delighted to bag his second hat-trick of his career but it wouldn't have come without some sublime playmaking from his skipper Gareth Widdop – a man Nightingale believes is now remembering just how good he is.

    Nightingale was on the end of some special Widdop playmaking in a 28-6 win against the Tigers; the highlight was arguably a stunning right-to-left spiral cut-out pass but a pinpoint cross-field chip kick was almost as impressive.

    Widdop, along with halves partner Benji Marshall, was pilloried in both regular and social media during season 2016 as the Dragons attack outscored only wooden spooners Newcastle.

    But those days seem a distant memory as the second-placed Dragons head the competition for points scored and points differential after five rounds of 2017.

    "He's going great, he's got a lot of ability and he's remembering how good he is," Nightingale said of the England international.

    "Halves cop a lot of scrutiny and are under a lot of pressure to control the team and he's doing a great job of that."

    Nightingale said the quality of players around Widdop had also helped to take the pressure off him with fullback Josh Dugan in commanding form, hooker Cam McInnes a revelation at his new club and halfback Josh McCrone providing a steady hand.

    "All those players in the spine are helping Gareth with his role and enabling him to focus on what his strengths are," Nightingale added.

    His own three-try effort was certainly a pleasing effort for the veteran winger.

    "We made the most of our opportunities and managed to get some really good ball in that first half," he said.

    "It led to a few tries and I'm very excited, I love scoring tries as every player let alone wingers do so very excited to get a first half hat trick and capitalise on some of the opportunities that we had.

    "The most pleasing thing out of that whole game was the fact that we defended really well then when we did get down their end through building pressure we were able to capitalise most times.

    "We stuck to our defensive patterns and managed to build pressure through that and then get across the line when we did find those opportunities. We have some really good plays to open up some space for myself and 'Laf' (centre partner Tim Lafai)."

    Nightingale said the Dragons weren't getting too carried away with the wins they was banking (four from five so far, and three in a row now for the first time since a six-game winning run at the start of 2015) but were more pleased with the fact the effort and performances have been consistent.

    "The last few weeks haven't been the prettiest wins with Cronulla, Warriors and [the Tigers] game but I think the fact that our defence has held strong," he said.

    "We haven't conceded a lot of points is the reason we won our games and the opportunities we have had we've capitalised on where in the past we probably not capitalised on those opportunities."
    ALSGI likes this.
  5. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Leadership group easing burden on Widdop: Nightingale

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    4 Apr 2017, 5:30 p.m.

    ST GEORGE Illawarra veteran Jason Nightingale believes a concerted effort to ease the leadership burden on Gareth Widdop is behind his skipper’s flying start to the 2017 season.

    BRAINS TRUST: Jack de Belin, Jason Nightingale and Tariq Sims. Picture: Adam McLean

    Widdop endured a tough initiation as captain of arguably the most famous club in rugby league last season, wearing the brunt of criticism for his side’s lacklustre attack.

    It led to reports that Ben Hunt’s impending arrival in 2018 could see him squeezed out of the club just a year after stepping into the captaincy role, but the 28-year- has provided a stinging rebuke to his critics over the opening five rounds.

    He is currently the league’s leading scorer with 54 points and laid on four tries in a five-star performance against the Tigers on Sunday. With the likes of Brisbane, Canterbury, and now Melbourne, on the lookout for a quality half, the Dragons may well have a fight on their hands to keep the English International.

    Nightingale – who was named as Josh Dugan’s fullback replacement on Tuesday – was a major beneficiary of Widdop’s return to form with a hat-trick in the win over the Tigers, and said the club’s new leadership group has sought to unburden their skipper.

    “We didn’t really have a strong leadership structure last year and Gareth had to carry a lot of that burden himself in his first year as captain,” Nightingale said.

    “The hardest part of being captain is having to carry some of the baggage from other people and Gareth did have to carry that stuff.

    “We had Benny Creagh, who is obviously a great mentor and leader, but he didn’t play a lot and then Benji [Marshall] was injured for the start of the year.

    “The way it’s set up this year we’ve got a bigger group, the dynamic is spread across a wider range of players and that’s a credit to the open-mindedness Mary [coach Paul McGregor] and his staff have had in their approach.

    “It lets Gareth focus a little bit more on the things he’s good at which is running the footy and playing with confidence. When you aren’t inhibited by other things that happen off the field it’s easier to play your natural game so the more help that everyone around him can give him the better he’s going to be.”

    The club’s new leadership brains trust also includes Tyson Frizell, Josh Dugan, Tariq Sims, Jack de Belin and Russell Packer, with Packer saying the player driven approach has been a big factor his side’s dramatic form reversal this season.

    “I think the player involvement, through the whole preseason and into the season, has been a lot bigger than last year and that’s giving ownership to us as a playing group,” Packer said.

    “It left a bit of a void there with Ben retiring and Benji moving on. When you’ve been selected by your peers and teammates to be a leader, it brings something more out of you because you know they’ve chosen you for a reason.

    “Credit to Mary, it’s hard to learn on the job but he’s done a great job learning from mistakes, as we all have, and implementing changes. There’s been a lot of input both ways and I think that dynamic has been great.

    “We’ve seen the strength of a team and what it can be when you have the right kind of players in that leadership group sending the same messages in terms of what standards we want to have here at the Dragons.”
  6. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Jack de Belin hunting top four finish with St George Illawarra Dragons
    Andrew Parkinson
    5 Apr 2017, 6 a.m.

    New look: Dragons forward Jack de Belin on the charge against the Warriors at Kogarah. Picture: Chris Lane

    Jack de Belin says St George Illawarra players were not playing for each other – or their coach – last season.

    But a change in culture aided by a strong pre-season has the Dragons breathing fire and aiming for a top four finish.

    The Dragons wore much criticism from their fans after a disappointing campaign last season. One of the worst attacks in the competition, only a handful of new signings and a coach under pressure had many doubting why 2017 would be any different.

    Few predicted such a swift turnaround with St George Illawarra second on the NRL table after five rounds following their 28-6 win over the Wests Tigers but de Belin said he – and his teammates – aren’t surprised.

    “If you look at it on paper it’s a high calibre playing group,” he said.

    “I did that last year, looking through the team and thought for what we’ve got here we should be performing a lot better.

    “Last year was a year of lost opportunity. There wasn’t a lot of growth or development. We kind of just got stale and you could see from the performances we weren’t really playing for one another or the coach. But this year we’re united and we can match it with any side.”

    The 26-year-old has started the season in arguably career-best form.

    The bond inside the Dragons camp is as strong as it has been in recent memory. An arduous pre-season that involved a lot of hard work and team bonding has helped the atmosphere around the club.

    “We had a great pre-season, to be honest. We really came together and there was a lot of belief and confidence,” de Belin said.

    “Obviously we didn’t trial that great and the [Auckland] Nines wasn’t the best performance either but the confidence was always there and we knew we were building something special… we’re definitely showing what we’re capable of and definitely heading in the right direction I think.”

    The Dragons will face fellow surprise packets Manly at Brookvale Oval on Saturday, with the Sea Eagles fifth after three straight wins over North Queensland, Canterbury and the Sydney Roosters.

    De Belin, while happy with his own form, said he still had improvement in his game and that State of Origin was a goal on the horizon.

    “I’ve definitely got rep aspirations. I’m never satisfied just playing club footy. It’s good to be playing club footy and having a career doing that but I would definitely love to play some rep footy,” he said.

    “[My form has] been good. I’m happy but you’re never satisfied. Obviously you’re always looking to improve and build. That’s obviously the platform I’ve created and now I’ve just got to keep building on it.”
  7. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Sele excited for NRL debut
    Wed 5th April, 03:00PM
    A A

    St George Illawarra Dragons forward Hame Sele will realise a lifelong dream on Saturday afternoon when he runs out for his NRL debut against the Sea Eagles at Lottoland.

    The local Kingsgrove Colts junior has been named in the Dragons' reserves every week of the 2017 NRL Telstra Premiership season so far without playing.

    However, the 20-year-old will finally get his shot from the interchange as Jacob Host looks almost certain to return to the Intrust Super Premiership in name of playing extra minutes.
  8. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Patience pays off for utility Mann
    Chris Kennedy - National Correspondent

    Wed 5th April, 10:00AM
    A A


    Dragons coach Paul McGregor doesn't make a habit of dishing out praise but he made an exception for utility Kurt Mann after the 24-year-old finally got a chance to play an 80-minute game against Wests Tigers ahead of what could be a solid run at fullback.

    The playmaking fullback was called up at the unfamiliar position of right centre for one game to cover Euan Aitken (hamstring) before shifting to fullback with 20 minutes to go when Josh Dugan strained his hamstring.

    After playing just 12 minutes in Round 2 and seven minutes in Round 4 in short stints off the bench, Mann racked up 120 metres with five tackle busts while making 15 tackles to earn the praise of his coach and teammates.

    "It was really good. I've been getting minimum minutes lately, just playing off the bench and covering for a few boys with [Aitken] being injured it's just good to get an opportunity to play a few minutes and show what I'm capable of," Mann said.

    "It's been a bit hard [so far this year] because I don't really know where I'm going to be playing week to week. Especially because I'm capable of playing a few different positions so it's been a bit difficult to try and nail a certain role in the team."

    McGregor spoke in the post-match press conference of the importance of Mann staying patient and waiting for his chance.

    "But we've seen Kurt come in and I thought he was outstanding in his game at right centre. He hasn't played there before, he's played a bit of left centre and left wing last year but he came in, he's waited for that opportunity and took that opportunity," McGregor said.

    Veteran winger Jason Nightingale also praised Mann's application while waiting for his shot.

    "The patience that he's showed to get in the team, he's been in the 17 every week and obviously played a full game [on Sunday] for the first time this year," Nightingale said.

    "The fact that he's been able to keep his head up throughout that time puts him in a good position to take his opportunity if that is the way we go."

    Mann also spoke of the encouragement McGregor had given him after the game.

    "He knows it's been pretty hard for me in the last couple of weeks, especially after the season I had last year," Mann said.

    "He knows it's been hard, he's been trying to give me some minutes and just hasn't been able to. He was real happy with the way I went, being ready, staying ready for my opportunity."
  9. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Packer keen to remain a Dragons

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    5 Apr 2017, 2:30 p.m.

    SOLID: Russell Packer is keen to remain a Dragon. Picture: Adam McLean

    DRAGONS prop Russell Packer hopes he can continue to repay the club that gave him his rugby league lifeline by re-signing beyond 2017.

    While he jokes his name is “probably at the bottom” of the list of stars unsigned for next year, Packer has started the season in career-best form he is keen to stay in Wollongong.

    “Obviously I’d love to stay, the club’s been great to me with everything I’ve gone through and giving me that second chance to come back into the NRL,” Packer said.

    “I’m just focusing on footy. People might think it’s just a throw away line but if you’re thinking about that too much you probably not in a good position. You never know what’s around the corner with form and injury so the way I approach it, I just take every game as I get it.

    “I’ve got a great manager in George Mimis looking after me and my family’s affairs. I’m looking to get something done in the next couple of months but it’s just the way footy goes. I’d love to stay at the club though, that’s for sure.”
    Old Kogarah Boy 1 likes this.
  10. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Right balance the key among player contract frenzy

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    5 Apr 2017, 7 p.m.

    RIGHT FOCUS: Coach Paul McGregor has struck a good balance between departments at the Dragons this year. Picture: John Veage

    BACK in February, if someone suggested that this Saturday’s clash between St George Illawarra and Manly would be the must-watch fixture of round six – or any round for that matter – they’d have been marched out the door quicker than a Wests Tigers CEO.

    The fact the match at Brookvale is indeed the match of the round is testament to coaches Paul McGregor and Trent Barrett. Both featured prominently in “first coach sacked" markets but, spending any time around McGregor during preseason, he looked to be a man decidedly unburdened. It’s now quite apparent, it was not an act.

    In rugby league terms, the term “post-season review” is often code for conducting straw polls in board rooms. However, one of the key findings of the review undertaken by the Dragons at the end of last season was that McGregor was forced to wear more hats within club walls than any other coach in the NRL.

    After admittedly trying to “micromanage” departments last year – in part due to necessity – McGregor’s found success in 2017 by stepping back. For that he deserves plenty of credit – it was a ballsy move to make in an off-contract year.

    Most tellingly, in 2017, player contract negotiations are completely the realm of recruitment chief Ian Millaward. Player contract talks had a major destabilising influence on the club last season.

    With the likes of Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan off-contract, it had the potential to be an even bigger issue this season but that’s now a headache Millward is employed to have.

    Employing a coach purely to coach the football team seems a novel idea in the modern game, but it’s paying dividends for McGregor and the Dragons.

    It makes Kickoff wonder if other clubs would benefit from putting just a few more degrees of separation between their coaching and recruitment departments.

    Despite protestations to the contrary, there’s no doubt Jason Taylor owed his recent demise to becoming bogged down in salary cap matters, first with Robbie Farah and then with the poorly dubbed ‘big four’.

    At Canterbury, questions over Des Hasler’s future at the club was on shaky ground due to poor recruitment decisions. The reports are that his new two-year deal came with the stipulation he cede some control, including on recruitment matters. McGregor’s success this year shows that may not be a bad thing.

    It was Jack Gibson who said the best coaches are the best recruiters. Only a fool would question the wisdom of the mastercoach, but Gibson never coached within the modern NRL salary cap.

    Player managers weren’t stockpiling talent at clubs, players did not sign multi-million deals with rival clubs years in advance and player movements were not the preoccupation of a ravenous 24-hour news cycle. We currently don’t even have a salary cap figure for 2018.

    Managing that colossal poo fight is a full-time job.

    We’re still unlikely to see recruitment managers sacked after a string of losses, but a good one can certainly help keep a coach in their job.
  11. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Vaughan powering forward for new club

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    5 Apr 2017, 5:30 p.m.

    LOOKING UP: Paul Vaughan has thrust himself into NSW Origin contention with his red-hot start to the 2017 season. Picture: Adam McLean

    HE’S looked every bit a man on a mission this season but in-form Dragons prop Paul Vaughan insists his departure from Canberra in 2016 has not left him with an extra point to prove.

    An early contender for buy of the year, Vaughan has polled seven Dally M votes in his first five games for the Dragons who’ve run roughshod over their rivals up front in a 4-1 start the season.

    It’s proven a quick return on the Dragons’ reported $1.75 million investment in the 25-year-old, that raised eyebrows in some quarters given his apparent fall from favour at the Raiders last year.

    Vaughan played 20 of the Raiders 27 games, including two finals appearances, and earned a third Country jumper in 2016, leaving him baffled by reports he left the Raiders on a sour note.

    “I’ve definitely moved on from that,” Vaughan said.

    “I think it’s been taken out of context a little bit and made out to be more than what it really should’ve been. I really enjoyed my time down there and I didn’t leave on bad terms, I left on good terms.

    “I had a good relationship with all the coaches there but that’s what happens in football, sometimes you have to move on and I’ve found a new home here at the Saints.

    “I love the club, I want to establish myself here and hopefully I can do that this year. I’m just enjoying my footy at the moment, that’s the biggest thing, and that carries on into your form.

    “Mary [coach Paul McGregor] has been really, really good for me and showed a lot of confidence in me and I just want to do everything I can to play my best footy. I don’t think I’ve played my best football yet so I’m working towards that every day.”

    Vaughan’s quickly found his feet in McGregor’s new power game philosophy, forming what’s been arguably the most effective front-row combination in the competition with fellow bookend Russell Packer.

    The pair are averaging a healthy 220 metres between them over the opening five games and head a formidable middle forward rotation with ironman Jack de Belin and bench weapons Leeson Ah Mau and Tariq Sims. It’s a pack mentality that Vaughan is thriving off.

    “I’m enjoying playing with Russ at the moment because I just love the way he plays,” Vaughan said.

    “He’s has been a great player for a very long time and he’s very influential in our team.

    “He’s a smart bloke, he knows the game very well, he’s a very powerful runner and he’s a very aggressive player. I can always go off the back of that and we’re feeding off each other and sharing the workload which you need in a front-row partnership.

    “We’re well aware that is rests on the forwards shoulders to get us forward and to start the game strong. We’ve just got to embrace that. It’s always going to be a battle in the first 20-25 minutes but you’ve just got to weather the storm and see how you go after that.

    “Taz and Leeson are great players as well and it’s a good combination at the moment where we try to start the game strong and they come on and lift it.”
    Old Kogarah Boy 1 likes this.
  12. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
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    Sims sets sights on Country jersey
    Simon Masterton -

    Thu 6th April, 09:00AM
    A A

    Competition - Representative Rugby League - AAMI City v Country. Round - May Representative Round. Teams - City v Country. Date - Sunday 8th of May 2016. Venue - Scully Park, Tamworth NSW. Photographer - Paul Barkley

    He’s the mainstay in the VB Country Origin team and when the fixture’s all-time finale comes around in May, Tariq Sims wants to be there again.

    Sims, who has represented the Country side consecutively since his debut in 2012, is the team’s most capped current player and if selected again will become the equal-second capped player of all-time behind Laurie Daley.

    While the Gerringong junior is sad to see the end of the concept, he hopes to be there when it wraps up in Mudgee on Sunday, May 7.

    "Playing for Country has always been a highlight of my career – I’ve played the last couple of years straight and this year’s no different," Sims told

    "As anyone who’s played for Country will tell you it’s a special week – we get some legends in to help motivate us, help bring the group together and give back to the Country Rugby League."
  13. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Lafai wary of white-hot Walker
    Martin Gabor - National Correspondent

    Thu 6th April, 11:00AM
    A A


    It didn't look like a marquee match-up when the draw was released, but St George Illawarra's game against the Sea Eagles at Lottoland this Saturday afternoon looms as one of the must-see clashes of Round 6.

    The Dragons are second on the competition ladder courtesy of a three-game winning streak, while the Sea Eagles are snapping at their heels having recovered from a slow start to the season to take down the Cowboys, Bulldogs and Roosters in recent weeks.

    While the forwards and halves have attracted plenty of headlines for both sides, it's the battle between a couple of form centres that could go a long way to deciding who leaves Lottoland with the two competition points.

    Tim Lafai has had an outstanding start to the year for the Dragons, averaging just shy of 120 metres and two tackle breaks per game.

    The 25-year-old scored a try and created one for Jason Nightingale in his side's most recent win over the Wests Tigers but knows he will have to up his game against this week's opponent, Dylan Walker.

    The Sea Eagles flyer was the hero on Friday night with his double – including the match-winner two minutes from full-time – enough to sink the high-flying Roosters in a thriller at Allianz Stadium.

    The pair have faced off several times at club level, including the 2014 grand final – albeit on opposite sides of the field when Lafai was at the Bulldogs and Walker at Souths – while they also lined up against each other in the 2014 Four Nations.

    Lafai was full of praise for his Sea Eagles counterpart and said the only way to contain him was if the Dragons' left-edge defended as one.

    "He's definitely a key factor in Manly's team and why they're doing so well in 2017," Lafai told

    "He's in awesome form and he's an awesome player so I've got to be on my toes to stop him this week.

    "I think his speed and footwork are his best assets. If you have those two things then you're always going to be a pretty good centre who is hard to defend against. I've got to nail down this week and do my homework on him so I can go out there on Saturday and do my best for the team.

    "That said, I think we have to work together as an edge. If you try to defend someone like him as an individual then he will beat you with speed. We'll work as an edge to get our line speed up to take that time away from him so he doesn’t get into too much space."

    Lafai predominately played at right centre for the Bulldogs but is relishing a return to the left-side of the field that he made his own coming up through the ranks.

    "I was originally a left-side player so it's normal for me to playing out there. We've done a lot of hard work in the pre-season to get our combos right so it feels natural," he said.

    "I think the biggest difference is which foot you step off and also making sure I carry the ball in my left hand. When I was on the right side I had to get used to carrying the ball in my right hand and fending with the left, and now I have to do the opposite."
  14. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Dragons Statement: Head Injury Protocol Sanction
    Thu 6th April, 02:45PM
    A A


    The St George Illawarra Dragons have today received a response to our detailed submission in respect to the NRL's concussion breach notice, in relation to the circumstances regarding Josh Dugan in Round 3.

    The Club is disappointed with the NRL’s considerations, as we have been with the process.

    Under the NRL rules, the Club has five business days to consider its position in relation to the NRL’s Breach Determination.
  15. BlackDuckSaint

    BlackDuckSaint Juniors

    Jun 3, 2013
    Likes Received:
    One of the better articles I have read

    These two are definite contenders for buys of the year.

    How Cameron McInnes and Paul Vaughan found a home at the new and improved Dragons

    Nick Walshaw, The Daily Telegraph
    April 6, 2017 9:57am
    Subscriber only
    CAMERON McInnes doesn’t know if the scar under his right eye will disappear.

    Says he never thought to ask the doctor about it.

    Just as he cannot tell you the number of stitches knitted into his forehead. Or how that front right tooth, now held in place with a plate, was knocked out two years ago.

    “I was playing first grade for Souths,’’ McInnes recalls. “In a final against Cronulla.

    “I can only remember feeling sore. So I’ve pulled my mouthguard out and the tooth, it came with it.”

    And then?

    “Then I sorta just jammed it back in there,’’ he shrugs. “But after the game, I took the mouthguard out again and the tooth was hanging by a thread so ...”

    And then on cue, McInnes uses his tongue to pop said plate down and out of his mouth — revealing the type of grin rarely seen outside Queensland.

    Which is when it hits you: This is the new face of St George Illawarra.

    Here within the scars, grazes and gappy smile.

    Cam McIness and Paul Vaughan are the changing face and attitude of the Dragons. Picture. Phil Hillyard

    All of it explaining how the Dragons are not only now playing in 2017, but winning.

    Indeed, ask centre Euan Aitken what he sees in this same face and he speaks of a fella who has made 215 tackles this year, while missing two.

    Prop Paul Vaughan, meanwhile, wonders aloud if he has ever played with anyone tougher. While winger Jason Nightingale, he needs only one word: Bravery.

    And as for tattooed enforcer Joel Thompson?

    “Competitiveness,’’ he says. “I mean, have a look at that head, it’s ridiculous.

    “Cam’s got bumps, scars, he’s missing teeth ... it’s all part of a competitive, aggressive mindset and I love it.

    “Because we don’t want individuals at this club. We want guys prepared to do the selfless things.

    “Guys who lead the kick chase, put their bodies on the line, play tough.”

    That, and bleed.

    Which McInnes does. Often.

    A signature for this unwanted Rabbitoh who — famously told he wasn’t worth his contract by Hollywood owner Russell Crowe — has already been stitched three times this season, including two lots of eight into that right cheekbone.

    “But I’ve been getting split for years,’’ McInnes shrugs, chatting now with League Central in the WIN Stadium grandstand. “Dunno why.

    “Maybe I just keeping putting my head in the wrong places.”

    Or the right places, depending on who you ask.

    For every other Dragon we’ve spoken to this particular Tuesday morning has recounted how, during pre-season, McInnes was flying up and out of the defensive line to jam rivals. Many of whom outweighed him by 20 kilos.

    Former Rabbitoh McInnes is among the buys of the season. Pic Mark Evans
    Better, it hasn’t stopped.

    Which makes him the new face of this Red V revival.

    The poster boy for a side who, despite being favoured to lose its coach first, cross the tryline least and challenge only for the wooden spoon, is suddenly second on the NRL ladder.

    With coach Paul McGregor still in place. And an attacking average of 26 points, or almost double last year.

    All while that battered head bleeds.

    “Growing up,” McInnes continues, “my old man always told me ‘defence is attitude’.

    “Before I went out to play that’s all he ever said.”

    So that’s all he ever did.

    Only in later years adding size, speed and a skill set that now sees him leading all NRL hookers for try assists.

    But still, grit remains the cornerstone of his game.

    Vaughan and McInnes have been two of the Dragons’ best this season. Pic: Phil Hillyard
    And while McInnes defends, fellow recruit Vaughan runs. For a career high 146m per week.

    “So now everyone in rugby league is talking about him,’’ Thompson says. “But his secret, it’s run hard, tackle hard. And do it every week.”

    Incredible isn’t?

    For as much as McInnes was tattooed to South Sydney — the local junior tipped a future captain as recently as last year — so Vaughan believed his life belonged to that hometown club he joined at 16, the Canberra Raiders.

    But then, McInnes was punted for Robbie Farah. And Vaughan, well, last August he was dropped to NSW Cup.

    An embarrassing fall he has little interest in recalling now.

    “That’s last year,’’ he says. “It’s done.”

    Indeed, the longer you talk with this Harley-Davidson owner, the more you reckon he might just be the new voice of St George Illawarra.

    For there is little he wants to say.

    Not publicly, anyway.

    Aware that more than winning four of their opening five games, what really counts now is their upcoming run against Manly, North Queensland, the Roosters and Melbourne.

    “But I also believe,’’ Vaughan says, “this group can do special things’’.

    And as from where that belief comes?

    “Hard work,’’ he adds without pause. “Our confidence comes from hard work.”

    McInnes agrees.

    Although this 23-year-old throwback quickly adds he has little idea of the hype surrounding himself, Vaughan or even his club given he doesn’t use social media or read newspapers. His TV, too, boasting no channels outside Netflix.

    Instead, he spends time between training sessions churning through books.

    For this is who McInnes is.

    Quizzed about his love of American football, the Botany boy speaks not so much of the explosive code -- “I think rugby league is a better game” -- but the devotion of those who play, coach and follow it.

    Why, too, he not only placed within the State’s top six per cent for his HSC results, but now refuses to study a university degree part-time.

    “Because I have to be fully invested,’’ he says. “The idea of studying part-time, it’s no good. I have to be all in.”

    And for proof, look at his face.

    At the long cheekbone scar which may or may not disappear. Then that forehead marked up like some country road map.

    And as for McInnes ever saving his front right tooth from the fate already befallen his left?

    “Ah, no,” he cackles, “it’s already dead too.

    “Although I’m not sure exactly what happened there, either ...”

    getsmarty likes this.
  16. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    McInnes ready to face former mentor
    Martin Gabor - National Correspondent

    Thu 6th April, 04:00PM
    A A

    2017 NRL - Grant Trouville :copyright: NRL Photos

    Cameron McInnes used to look up to Api Koroisau when they were coming through the Rabbitohs system, but the new Dragons hooker won't have any time for sentiment when he takes on his former mentor on Saturday afternoon.

    The pair were members of South Sydney's Holden Cup squad in 2012 with the experienced Koroisau looking after McInnes before he graduated to the NRL side.

    A lot has changed since then – McInnes is in his first year at the Dragons while Koroisau is now at the Sea Eagles – but the pair have tried to stay in contact whenever possible. ‌

    "When I first came into 20s, he (Koroisau) was the hooker at Souths. He was a great player back then – he still is now – but he was really good in the 20s which meant I didn't get to play much at the time," McInnes told

    "I learnt a lot off him and then he went up into first grade which allowed me to play a couple of years in 20s. We then played a bit together for a while before he went to Penrith.

    "When you're young and have a player like him to compete against, it makes you better on and off the field and pushes you to bring the best out of yourself. Even though we were competing for a spot in the team, we didn't let it affect our friendship off the field.

    "We try to keep in touch but obviously people go their separate ways after a while. He's up in Manly while I'm down in Wollongong, but we've got some mutual friends so there's always an opportunity for us to cross paths and catch up."

    ‌With both the Dragons and Sea Eagles currently on three-game winning streaks Saturday's clash at Lottoland shapes as one of the matches of the round.

    It's also a good opportunity for McInnes to get back to Sydney to visit friends and family.

    Most people assumed the Rabbitohs junior would play out his career in Redfern, but after three seasons with the Bunnies, the 23-year-old made the move south and has loved every minute of the change of scenery.

    "I watched a lot of footy growing up and there weren't a lot of one-club players and that hasn't really changed in the modern game," McInnes said.

    "I enjoyed my time at Souths and I was happy to stay there, but this opportunity came up and I'm so glad I jumped at it because it's been great – not just because of footy, but also for a lifestyle change.

    "It's my first time out of Sydney and if you stay in that bubble your whole life then you don't get to experience new things.

    "I'm not one to read the papers and put my head in the news too much, but it's the little things like traffic and things like that. It's a bit slower here and the more relaxed environment suits me better. I enjoy getting back to Sydney but I definitely notice how full-on it is every time I go back.

    "I'm enjoying the lifestyle down here and the culture of the Dragons."
  17. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Dragons veteran staying put

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    5 Apr 2017, noon

    STAYING PUT: Long-serving Dragons winger Jason Nightingale has no intention of departing the club at season's end. Picture: Adam McLean

    RUSTED on Dragons fans will be pleased to hear that Jason Nightingale is all but certain to remain in the red v beyond this season.

    The only remaining member of the club’s 2010 premiership triumph, Nightingale showed he’s still one of the best finishers in the game with a hat-trick against the Tigers last week.

    He’s one of several Dragons players off-contract in 2017 with the likes of Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan also unsigned beyond this season.

    It means the 30-year-old may have to wait to resolve his future but he told Kickoff he’s happy to bide his time.

    “I’d love to stay and I will stay, I’m not going to go and test myself on the market,” Nightingale said.

    “I only want to be here, I’ve been here for however long, it’s just a matter of sorting through that deal.

    “They’ve given me the impression that they want to keep me and that’s as far as our conversation really needs to go.

    “I’m sure we’ll talk again once they sort out everything with other players that may want to test the market or reach their value potential. That was probably a contract for me four years ago but this one’s about playing here.

    “I’m still competitive and I’m still enjoying my footy and that’s the reason why I want to keep running around.”
  18. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Dragons trio named State of Mind ambassadors
    Fri 7th April, 10:00AM
    A A


    St George Illawarra Dragons trio Josh Dugan, Joel Thompson and Tariq Sims have been named as NRL State of Mind ambassadors in support of the game’s State of Mind mental health program.

    Leading NRL referees Ben Cummins and Matt Cecchin will also join a total of 13 new NRL State of Mind ambassadors, including Dugan.

    New ambassadors alongside Cummins and Cecchin include Anthony Milford, Trent Merrin, Josh Dugan and Sam Bremner, taking the total number of ambassadors across NRL Clubs, the Harvey Norman Jillaroos and for the first time, referees, to 30.

    The announcement of 13 additional ambassadors coincides with World Health Day today, with this year’s theme focussed on talking about depression.

    The NRL’s State of Mind program is in its third year and aims to:

    · Increase mental health literacy amongst clubs and communities, from grassroots to the elite level

    · Stimulate help seeking behaviours

    · Reduce stigmas around mental illness and suicide

    · Develop elite players and officials to be advocates of positive mental health

    The program is backed by expert health partners Kids Helpline, The Black Dog Institute, headspace, Lifeline and New Zealand based organisation.

    NRL Head of Government and Community Relations, Jaymes Boland-Rudder said the new ambassadors had all self-nominated to be part of the State of Mind program, that supports players, coaches, fans and the wider community at all levels of the game.

    "Many of our NRL State of Mind ambassadors have personal stories that will resonate with community members and help highlight the importance of reaching out for support in difficult times," Mr Boland-Rudder said.

    "The NRL is committed to working with the rugby league family and broader community to address the serious mental health challenges Australia is currently facing.

    "Our ambassadors deserve to be commended for sharing their stories and using their profile in the community to reduce stigmas associated with mental illness."

    The NRL, State of Mind ambassadors and expert partners linked with the program have already committed to delivering education and awareness programs to more than 120 grassroots clubs across Australia and New Zealand, with additional club visits planned.

    Rugby League Players Association CEO, Ian Prendergast applauded additional voices within the game to support players and communities.

    "Mental health and wellbeing is a significant part of our game and the NRL State of Mind program provides support across all levels of rugby league,” Mr Prendergast said.

    "It is positive to see more and more players and now referees involved in a movement to look out for one another, as well as family and friends, and seek help at any time."

    All NRL State of Mind ambassadors receive ongoing support and training, including undertaking a Mental Health First Aid Certificate.

    For further information on the NRL State of Mind program, head to

    Images of some NRL State of Mind ambassadors can be found here:

    2017 NRL State of Mind ambassadors:

    Josh Dugan - St George Illawarra Dragons*
    Joel Thompson - St George Illawarra Dragons
    Tariq Sims - St George Illawarra Dragons

    Ben Cummins – NRL Referee*
    Matt Cecchin – NRL Referee*
    Ruan Sims – Harvey Norman Jillaroos
    Sam Bremner – Harvey Norman Jillaroos*
    Anthony Milford – Brisbane Broncos*
    Darius Boyd – Brisbane Broncos
    Moses Mbye – Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
    Iosia Soliola- Canberra Raiders*
    Sam Tagataese – Cronulla Sharks
    Joseph Paulo – Cronulla Sharks
    Eddy Pettybourne – Gold Coast Titans*
    Dale Copley – Gold Coast Titans*
    Brenton Lawrence – Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
    Dale Finucane – Melbourne Storm
    Dane Gagai – Newcastle Knights
    Josh Starling – Newcastle Knights
    John Asiata – North Queensland Cowboys*
    Michael Morgan – North Queensland Cowboys
    Jeff Robson – Parramatta Eels
    Suaia Matagi – Parramatta Eels
    Trent Merrin – Penrith Panthers*
    Luke Kelly – South Sydney Rabbitohs
    Dave Tyrrell – South Sydney Rabbitohs
    Simon Mannering- New Zealand Warriors*
    Toafofoa Sipley – New Zealand Warriors*
    Jordan Rankin - Wests Tigers*
    Matt Ballin – Wests Tigers
  19. Wauchope Dragon

    Wauchope Dragon Juniors

    Feb 19, 2017
    Likes Received:
    It looks even better when you allow for the 1-2 tries a game through Aitkens mis reads or missed tackles.

  20. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

    Jun 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    McCrone finding niche alongside Widdop

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    9 Apr 2017, 4 p.m.

    STEPPING UP: Dragons haflback Josh McCrone produced his best performance in the red v against Manly on Saturday. Picture: Getty Images

    ST GEORGE Illawarra skipper Gareth Widdop continues to win most of the plaudits for rebooting the Dragons attack this season, but fans can take plenty of confidence from Josh McCrone’s performance against Manly on Saturday.

    The 29-year-old was just one of a host of contenders to partner Widdop at the scrumbase in 2017, after young-gun Drew Hutchison suffered a preseason ACL injury prior to Christmas.

    McGregor ultimately opted for the 146-game NRL veteran and, after making an understated start over the opening five rounds, he repayed the faith against the Sea Eagles, turning in what was undoubtedly his best performance in Dragons colours.

    The former Country rep put Euan Aitken over untouched with a deft pass in the first half and did the same for Jack de Belin after an incisive run early in the second.

    His kick for Widdop’s second try just moments from fulltime proved the exclamation point on the performance but his reaction was typically understated post-match.

    “Footy’s a bit of a funny game, sometimes the ball comes your way and sometimes it doesn’t,” McCrone said.

    “Gaz has had the run of the footy the last couple of weeks but [against Manly] the footy came my way a bit and we were able to finish with a couple of points.

    “As long as the team’s scoring points I’m happy. It can still improve but at the moment passes are sticking and guys are pushing into the right spaces.”

    McCrone’s six consecutive games alongside Widdop is his longest stretch with any halves partner since he partnered Terry Campses for 10 straight games with Canberra in 2014, something he feels is showing in the club’s performances.

    “It’s been nice to get a bit of consistency and that’s what we’ve got at the moment in the halves,” McCrone said.

    “I think it’s something this club underestimated last year, giving time to build combinations, and it’s something that’s really come along this year. We talk about the forward pack we’ve got and it’s a powerful pack that rolls through teams in the middle. If you’re an NRL half you should enjoy playing off the back of that and at the moment we’re having a bit of fun.”

    With Ben Hunt set to arrive on a six-year deal in 2018, Widdop and McCrone face uncertain futures at the club with Wests Tigers reportedly ready to launch a bid to lure the Dragons skipper to to Concord. It’s just one storyline in the most volatile halves market in recent memory but McCrone remains unfazed by the chaos despite being off-contract.

    “I don’t worry too much about all that chat,” McCrone said.

    “Fortunately enough, or unfortunately enough, I’ve been around long enough to see this merry-go-around happen a few times.

    “For me it's about having a happy life at home and coming to training and working hard there and putting in good performances on the weekend. Everything else will take care of itself.”

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