Steve Price set to deliver: Fien

RUGBY LEAGUE

Former Dragons playmaker Nathan Fien has backed under-fire coach Steve Price to remove doubts about his future by delivering a successful start to the NRL season.

After missing the finals in his past two campaigns in charge of St George Illawarra, the spotlight has again turned on Price following disappointing performances in the Auckland Nines and Charity Shield.

The club was then forced to stand down young hooker Craig Garvey over a violent incident at Wollongong's Hotel Illawarra last week.

Fien, a key part of the Dragons' 2010 premiership triumph who retired from the NRL at the end of last season, is starting his own coaching career with Coal League club Thirroul.

The Kiwi international said Price believed he was the man to take the club back to the top eight.

"I'm sure if Pricey just backs his own ability, doesn't get distracted by the calls [for his sacking] and just focuses on what he needs to do, he can come out the other side," Fien said.

"It doesn't matter if you're Tim Sheens or Wayne Bennett, there's always pressure to perform.

"I'm sure Pricey will be hoping the boys can get off to a really good start and put all that to bed, but at this stage of the year there's going to be speculation.

"You just need to control what you can and Pricey's job is to try and get the Dragons to perform as best they can week in, week out."

With a new squad, featuring star five-eighth Gareth Widdop, the Dragons are out to silence doubters in their clash with the West Tigers on Sunday. However, the battle of the coaches looms as an interesting subplot.

Price and Mick Potter need impressive starts to the season to ease the considerable pressure on their jobs after enduring strikingly similar 2013 seasons.

Both dealt with mid-season issues which resulted in Jamie Soward leaving the Dragons and Benji Marshall heading for the exit at the Tigers.

In the lead-up to round one, both have suffered injury setbacks they could little afford.

The Auckland Nines claimed Tigers five-eighth Curtis Sironen with a foot injury and Josh Dugan injured his knee in the Dragons' Charity Shield loss to Souths.

The instability has been reflected in betting markets with sportsbet.com.au revealing double the amount of bets on the Tigers ($4.25) to run last than for any other side, with the Dragons second favoured at $6.

Despite the dire predictions, Fien certainly isn't writing off his former side just yet.

"I think they probably would have liked to have done a little bit better in their preseason games but at the end of the day the points aren't on offer in those matches," Fien said.

"From a player's point of view, you're just trying to get through as unscathed as possible because they want to be hitting their peak on Sunday afternoon when they run out gainst the Tigers.

"I think it's going to take a little bit of time but they've definitely got some star players there who can do some good things.

"Whether it's going to be enough this year only time will tell, but I'm definitely not writing them off."

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