I saw enough in Sunday’s match against the Storm to be cautiously optimistic about the Dragons season.
No doubt the 30-10 scoreline doesn’t seem to offer much cause for optimism but there were a few instances where the bounce of the ball didn’t favour us. Gareth Widdop got lucky by sticking his foot out on a Nathan Fien grubber - it went up and he was able to run straight onto a favourable bounce and score.
But for us, the ball wasn’t that kind - Jason Nightingale jumps for a ball in the Storm in-goal and knocks it backwards. A try looks a certainty, until it takes one minuscule roll too far and only just re-enters the field of play before Chase Stanley gets a hand on it.
Then there were a few dropped balls that didn’t help, giving the Storm possession that they didn’t really need.
On the upside, the Dragons looked more likely to do something in attack than they did for most of last season. Gerard Beale showed some early signs of being a very handy signing indeed - he broke a few tackles, made some half-breaks and has a very quick sidestep
The much-maligned Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, Jamie Soward looked more focused on the game than last season. And I got to see him take an intercept and streak off to the tryline - man, it seems like eons since I’ve since Soward running free in open field.
Brett Morris looked dangerous, Jason Nightingale as safe as houses as he always is and forwards like Trent Merrin and Dan Hunt were solid.
Nathan Fien at half - well, that’s one I’m not too sure about. He’s been playing hooker for yonks and so will likely need a bit of time to acclimatise to the change of position. But part of me wonders whether Josh Drinkwater might be a better option - he’s younger, faster and showed a level head during his time on the field during the Charity Shield.
Still I reckon Steve Price will be sticking with Fien for at least a few more weeks. But if Fien doesn’t fire, then he might find himself out of the side - because he’s now third in line for the hooker position behind Mitch Rein and Cameron King.
Overall, I felt the Dragons did better than the scoreboard would suggest against the team many are tipping to win it all this season. We’re a team with a new halves combination and a new fullback - so there will be a bit of time before they all work out how they fit together.
The big area of concern is whether they’ll be as focused when they play some of the ordinary teams. That was one of the team’s biggest problems in 2012; they could lift for a big opponent and play a great game but then clock off the following week against a team near the bottom of the ladder.
A bit of consistency this year will go a long way for the Dragons.