St George Illawarra great Matt Cooper believes Dragons coach Steve Price will be a man under pressure should his side fail to fire early in the 2014 season.
Cooper, who retired last year after 243 games for the club, told Sportsmate Mobile's League Live app that only a strong performance in the early rounds of the competition would silence those who doubt Price's ability to restore the Dragons as a premiership force.
"Price has had a hard run over the last couple of seasons, and there will be a lot of pressure on him to perform in the first couple of games," Cooper wrote.
"Every coach has pressure on them, but after the more recent results and final placings of the Dragons - especially following their 2010 premiership - there has been added pressure on Price to perform.
"I think if the Dragons do not perform well in the opening five or six games, the board will be pressured to have a look at the coaching staff. Here's hoping the Dragons win the first couple of games so that this issue doesn't even raise its ugly head."
Price has been forced to make do with an ageing roster he inherited from premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett in his first two years in the job.
Following an off-season recruitment drive that's netted Gareth Widdop, Sam Williams, Dylan Farrell and Joel Thompson, Price finally has the side he feels can meet the Dragons faithful's famously high expectations.
Cooper said the club's new halves pairing of Williams and Widdop will be key to returning the Dragons to the NRL finals.
"After losing [Ben] Hornby in 2012 and [Jamie] Soward and [Nathan] Fien in 2013, the Dragons needed to recruit well in the halves," Cooper said. "I believe they have done this in Widdop and Williams.
"Widdop is a great ball runner who will take on the line, while Williams is a young, up-and- coming half who has a great kicking game.
"Once these guys have found their feet we'll see a bigger and better Dragons side."