One team made a blistering start heading into an early-season derby while the other is near rock bottom, but St George Illawarra stars Ben Creagh and Jason Nightingale know how quickly all that can change.
In a total role reversal from 12 months ago, a winless Sharks outfit will have to overcome a raft of injuries and suspension if they are to surprise a revitalised Dragons outfit at Remondis Stadium this Saturday.
It’s a situation painfully familiar for St George Illawarra, who stumbled in enemy territory against a high-flying Cronulla last season as the heat reached boiling point on coach Steve Price.
The Dragons overcame all the odds to win that derby and launched a three-match winning streak which preserved Price’s job.
Now the hunter becomes hunted as a wounded Sharks, on the back of a 38-point hiding at the hands of the Bulldogs on Monday, face a five-day turnaround to kickstart their stalled season.
‘‘I remember exactly the position we were in. It’s why you’ve got to be wary of the Sharks,’’ Nightingale said.
‘‘The roles are reversed this year and we’re probably going into the game in the position they were in last year. We need to combat that as I remember the way we were feeling last year.
‘‘We were pretty down and that was the start of a three-game winning streak.’’
As if an absentee list already headed by skipper Paul Gallen (injury) and Bulldogs-bound prop Andrew Fifita (suspension) wasn’t bad enough already, front-rower Bryce Gibbs and former Dragon Matt Prior were hit with judiciary charges on Tuesday.
Both will be free to play with early guilty pleas.
Creagh said the table-topping Dragons ‘‘still had a few levels’’ to go to yet but wouldn’t underestimate their rivals despite their sluggish start to the year.
‘‘They’re missing a few players at the moment and it seems like they’re doing it pretty tough,’’ he said.
‘‘Playing at home this week they’ve got a good side, a very vocal home crowd; it’s going to be tough for us.’’
Added Nightingale: ‘‘You shouldn’t change your mindset at all. If you go into a game thinking you’re an underdog you could start acting like one.
‘‘By the same token if you go into a game thinking you’re going to win you might get your pants pulled down.’’
The Dragons named an unchanged line-up for the Sharks clash, adding props Jack de Belin (cork) and Jack Stockwell (hamstring) to an extended bench.
Stockwell hasn’t featured in the NRL this season while de Belin limped from the field early in the first half of the Dragons’ round-one hiding of the Tigers.
Sam Williams retains the halfback role.