Michael Witt, returning to Melbourne for the first time since helping orchestrate finals history with the Warriors, has pledged to put an end to St George Illawarra’s halfback merry-go-round.
Set to be thrust back into the halves to act as Gareth Widdop’s foil for his Melbourne homecoming, Witt’s return in the No 7 will mean the Dragons have come full circle since round one.
Coach Steve Price has already used Sam Williams and Adam Quinlan in the role after first-choice Witt was injured in the season opener against the Tigers. Quinlan’s impressive early-season form even forced Witt and Williams to team up in the NSW Cup last week.
But the 30-year-old elder statesman in the Dragons squad, is expected to win the nod for the clash against Melbourne, who famously fell victim to Witt’s miracle try in the 2008 finals.
It was his last season in the NRL before a four-year stint in the English Super League.
‘‘I think it was the first time ever team eight had beaten team one [under the McIntyre system],’’ Witt recalled. ‘‘We just went down there with everyone thinking we were just making up the numbers in the finals, but we had a good approach and knocked them off.’’
It’s the same principle the journeyman is planning to use to nail down a permanent spot in St George Illawarra’s halfback jersey, which is crying out for a regular tenant.
Witt was making a good fist of it in his Red V debut before succumbing to a dislocated shoulder in the Widdop-inspired Tigers romp.
‘‘Of course it’s frustrating [playing NSW Cup] as you always want to come straight back in, but in hindsight I think it was a good thing,’’ he said. ‘‘I’ve got a couple of games under my belt, my shoulder is strong and I go into this game with confidence.
‘‘Once you get in there you’ve got to cement your spot. I think the best teams have a consistent 17 throughout the year. I want to get in there and put my best foot forward and stay for the rest of the year.’’
If the Dragons were desperate to erase the mental baggage some of their squad have against Melbourne - they haven’t won in the southern capital since 1999 - they’ve done a pretty good job.
Five of St George Illawarra’s named starting line-up have never worn the red and white against the Storm in Melbourne.
‘‘It’s a new squad and there’s a lot of new faces so we go down there with a fresh approach,’’ Witt said.
‘‘We know it’s going to be a tough game. They’re great down there - they’re strong anywhere - and playing at home they’re very good so we’ll have to be on our game.’’