Price shifts gear to get Dragons cruising

RUGBY LEAGUE - DRAGONS

Hadn't this game been marked as the fork in the road for two clipboard carriers whose coaching careers were viewed as hanging by a thread?

Funny game, rugby league.

Steve Price hasn't just beaten a few dents back into place with St George Illawarra's weather-worn vehicle, he's positively ripped it apart and replaced it with a brand newer sports car with import Gareth Widdop at the wheel.

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Ditto Anthony Griffin, whose unlikely halves pairing of Josh Hoffman and Ben Hunt has powered the Broncos to within a last-minute Roosters miracle of joining the Dragons as unbeaten surprise packets through three NRL rounds.

Granted, it's only very early days and you can't imagine Price and Griffin easing back in their office chairs waiting for that contract extension to slide across the desk yet.

But whoever manages to bag two points from their stoush at WIN Stadium on Friday night can probably feel a lot more comfortable about their lot in this tough coaching caper.

And their plights are scarcely believable from what each showed during those damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't trial games.

"We were pretty confident [we'd start well]," countered Dragons winger Brett Morris. "We had a great preseason despite our preseason results not being the best.

"We didn't play with our full side for a full 80 minutes and we knew what we were capable of. I think they [Brisbane] are probably in the same boat as us ... they would have thought they would be doing half decent [too].

"There's a lot of people who wrote both sides off at the start of the year and it's worked to our advantage."

Perhaps the low expectation is not the only thing that has helped swing the pendulum towards the Dragons and Broncos this year.

Both are loaded with small, fast men exploiting the NRL's attempt to speed up the game through its new rules. The Dragons have fielded a mobile pack, preferring to convert back-rowers into middle men capable of running the opposition's big boys ragged.

The Broncos' size is a little more pronounced with Martin Kennedy and Dave Hala on their bench, key weapons if the inclement weather renders it a slog in the middle at WIN Stadium.

"I'd say it's going to be a fairly grinding match and a tough one," Morris said. "We've had a fair bit of rain the past couple of days and they've forecast rain as well. We've got to try to get used to it."

Morris and company could get used to this unbeaten streak too.

The Dragons are three on the bounce already and the fourth would be the sweetest, in one of only four matches they'll play in Wollongong this year.

"Obviously winning brings confidence and you enjoy training a lot more when you're winning," he said. "The boys want to keep that feeling going and it would be great to get a win in front of our home fans."

And it doesn't matter where those home fans are: Wollongong, Kogarah, ANZ Stadium, Allianz Stadium or the SCG - Price knows wins are the only currency he'll deal in.

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