A shift away from his long-time station on the left edge and trying to inspire a team who only just saw off the threat of the wooden spoon has helped make Ben Creagh’s first season as captain a forgettable one.
Defeat to the hapless Eels - the only team to spare the Dragons a last-placed finish [their last wooden spoon was in 1938] - and it truly would be a miserable end.
In a year which will act as a precursor to an off-season of soul searching and shake-ups, the rookie skipper has worn St George Illawarra’s struggles harder than most.
‘‘I suppose the biggest thing we’ve had to learn is how to deal with our losses and learn from the mistakes we’ve made from a lot of games during the year,’’ Creagh said on the eve of tonight’s clash with the cellar-dwelling Eels at Parramatta Stadium.
‘‘We haven’t been good at that, to tell you the truth. That’s been the most disappointing thing. There’s been a lot of similar things in our performances that have just not been good enough and we haven’t learned from them.
‘‘We’re all in the same boat and although I am captain there’s 17 guys who go through the same disappointment I do every week and that includes all the other guys we’ve used throughout the year. They train just as hard as I do and put in just as much effort.
‘‘We’ve just got to all be there for each other in times like this.’’
Dragons flyer Brett Morris will play his 150th game for the Red V, needing only two tries to chalk up 100 career four-pointers.
One of only three Dragons to play every match this season – the others being Jason Nightingale and Nathan Fien – Creagh has used the pair as a sounding board at various times. So, too, has been his predecessor Ben Hornby, now working with the Dragons’ Holden Cup side.
And in the midst of a turbulent year in which the Dragons could chalk up the longest losing streak in the joint venture’s history with defeat tonight, Creagh has also been dealing with his own individual challenge.
Shuffled into the middle of the park following the season-ending injuries to Dan Hunt and Trent Merrin, the 28-year-old remains open to the idea of forging a name for himself in the front row.
‘‘I’ve played in the back row for probably six or seven years so for me to have a new challenge as part of my career is good for me,’’ he said.
‘‘Defensively you’re not stuck on one side of the field, you’re roving around and also attack-wise you have to put yourself in positions to get the ball.
‘‘That’s what I’m really enjoying, hopefully I can keep improving there, keep learning and keep getting better in that position. There’s two games to go and we’ll see how we go in the pre-season and if the coach wants to keep me there. I’m happy to stay there if he wants.’’
Having been embarrassed by a Luke Brooks-inspired Tigers at the SCG, the Dragons won’t be the only ones low on confidence and smarting over their recent form.
The Eels were routed by 60 points against Melbourne, but welcome the return of linchpin Jarryd Hayne who was at the heart of Parramatta’s only win against the Dragons in their past 11 attempts (2009 finals series).
‘‘You’ve seen over the years when Jarryd comes back into the side how dangerous he is and the spark he gives the side,’’ Creagh said. ‘‘We’ll have our hands full there and especially after the loss they had last week, they’ll be keen to turn it around.
‘‘We’re in a similar boat to Parramatta coming off a loss to the Tigers where we were pretty much embarrassed too.’’