Dan Hunt's message to Dragons critics

RUGBY LEAGUE

St George Illawarra prop Dan Hunt has invited the side’s critics to keep writing them off as the Dragons continue to swiftly consign a rocky preseason to the memory bank.

Battered and bruised after a Charity Shield mauling, St George Illawarra sit perched on top of the ladder after just two rounds, a position scarcely imaginable just a few weeks ago. 

And now they’ll likely head into the derby showdown with old rivals Cronulla as favourites with the Sharks missing inspirational forwards Paul Gallen and Andrew Fifita at Remondis Stadium on Saturday night.

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‘‘A lot of people wrote us off at the start of the season and were still writing us off after the Tigers game ... they can keep doing that,’’ Hunt said.

‘‘We’re sticking together and I know that we’ve got belief amongst our side and we’ve got belief in each other. We’re not too worried about the outside world as we’re just taking it a week at a time.

‘‘We’re just going to stick together and do our jobs to hopefully get away with the two points this week.’’

It will be a stark contrast to the mood surrounding the Dragons when they visited the Shire for an early-season clash last year, winless in their first three games and fighting to save Steve Price’s job.

Despite being despised outsiders, St George Illawarra overcame the Sharks to trigger three straight wins which resulted in a contract extension for their coach.

Yet a level Hunt warned just like the Dragons refused to get too low early last season, they’ll be keeping a lid on the hype and won’t be riding too high for the trip up the Princes Highway.

‘‘We’re not having a look at the table as it’s only two weeks in and premierships aren’t won at this time of year,’’ he said after a second-half blitz pinched two points against the Warriors at Eden Park on Saturday.

‘‘[But] obviously we’ve got a bit of belief in the side now. Everyone’s buying into our new gameplan which is obviously working when we stick to it and it’s showing in our defence and in our attack.

‘‘We just enjoyed the win [Saturday] night as a team and we flew out pretty early [Sunday] morning.’’

The Dragons have already chalked up 75 points in their first two games of the season with a revitalised attack which barely managed that amount of points through the first five rounds in 2013.

Hunt labelled the input of assistant coach Paul McGregor, responsible for the offence, and five-eighth Gareth Widdop as key influences as St George Illawarra again blew their rivals off the park in the second half.

‘‘I know it was one of the hardest preseasons the club has been involved with,’’ Hunt said. ‘‘I would probably put our performances down to that as we are a lot fitter and a lot stronger.

‘‘And getting guys like Gareth Widdop into the halves has made a massive difference for us. I think Paul McGregor has made a massive difference too in our attack and our structures.’’

Hunt has steadily recovered from offseason knee and shoulder surgery to win back a starting spot as one of the squad’s only recognised front-rowers. He got through 35 minutes against the Warriors and has again set his sights on making an early impact against the Sharks.

‘‘Everyone seems to be writing us off because we’re not the biggest forward pack in the world, but we’ve got a lot of guys that work hard and enjoy that work,’’ he said. ‘‘I had a limited preseason because of the surgeries, but being around for a while you know what you have to do mentally and physically to play.

‘‘Pricey has put faith in me to go back into the starting squad so I’ve taken that opportunity with both hands.’’

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