Dragons' top eight tightrope act must end: de Belin

RUGBY LEAGUE

Imposing back-rower Jack de Belin has implored his St George Illawarra teammates to end their balancing act on the top eight tightrope over the next fortnight.

As the Dragons prepare to face the table-topping Bulldogs on Mothers Day, coach Steve Price has left his squad in doubt as to the importance he's placing on the clash.

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He sent de Belin, prop Jack Stockwell and back-rower Joel Thompson back to the NSW Cup last weekend in a bid to find more match fitness before heading to ANZ Stadium on Sunday.

Jack de Belin says St George must dig deep to bring down the Bulldogs. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Jack de Belin says St George must dig deep to bring down the Bulldogs. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

And de Belin has pinpointed a testing fortnight against the high-flying Bulldogs and resurgent Parramatta at Pirtek Stadium as crucial to the Dragons' season heading into the Origin period.

"We're kind of in a position now where it can go either way," de Belin said of St George Illawarra, idling outside the top eight on points differential.

"At 4-4 you could say it's a decent start, but we had a couple of games there which were tight and one you could say we were almost robbed.

"It's pretty much crucial now we have a few wins and get on a roll now to make sure we're permanently in the top eight rather than on the fringe of it."

The Dragons and Bulldogs have shared a bizarre record against each other in the modern era.

Des Hasler's side has won the last four clashes between the sides which was preceded by the Dragons winning six straight from 2008-11. The Bulldogs conquered their arch rivals in seven consecutive games prior to that (2003-08).

De Belin said the Dragons would do well to take a leaf out of the Bulldogs' book this season after they squeaked home in three straight matches by a solitary point.

"They've won a lot of those tight games this year and in situations where they probably weren't going to win and they've pulled through," he said.

"It shows they play for the full 80 minutes and they won't go down lightly. We had a tough loss there on Anzac Day and it was a bitter pill to swallow, you could say.

"We didn't play the best of games and it was a pretty good reality check. We know what we've got to work on to bring it to the Bulldogs this weekend."

De Belin's own season has been blighted by injury and suspension, prompting Price to twice ask him to don the Illawarra Cutters' jumper in the second-tier competition.

One of those even came less than 24 hours after the 23-year-old featured off the bench against Brisbane in round four.

"It [NSW Cup] is not a walk in the park and it's very physical and good for your match fitness," de Belin said.

"I had an injury there and a suspension which keeps halting my progress and bringing me back in regards to my match fitness."

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