Widdop gets used to life with 'spotlight' scrutiny

Gareth Widdop is getting plenty of attention now off the field as well as on, since his move north.

Gareth Widdop is getting plenty of attention now off the field as well as on, since his move north.

RUGBY LEAGUE - DRAGONS

Dragons playmaker Gareth Widdop has vowed to take charge as he adjusts to the scrutiny now he's living in the spotlight in rugby league heartland.

It's been a change of pace for Widdop this year, not least following Steve Price's sacking and the signing of Benji Marshall, after years of stability in Melbourne under coach Craig Bellamy and alongside the quality of Billy Slater and Cameron Smith.

"In Melbourne with Bellyache being there for so long it's obviously a stable club and with the AFL down there you don't really get too much rugby league in the newspapers or on the TV so it does make it a little bit easier," Widdop said.

"Up here it's all rugby league and you do cop it a fair bit when you're losing.

"It has been a bit different and a bit of a distraction but as players we can't do too much about that.

"All we can do is focus on training hard each day we turn up to training and trying to play well on the weekend."

The instability hasn't been restricted to the coaching ranks with Widdop, who led Dally M voting after four rounds, partnered in the halves with Michael Witt, Sam Williams and Adam Quinlan at various stages of the season before Benji Marshall joined the club to become his fourth halves partner at the midway point of the season.

After three seasons playing almost exclusively with the game's premier No 7 Cooper Cronk, Widdop said the Dragons halfback merry-go-round has posed a challenge.

"It's always difficult when you're chopping and changing a lot," Widdop said.

"Everyone does play a little bit different and it has been a bit difficult and hard.

"Obviously Benji being back, it's going to take time and patience, but the longer the season goes the more we'll improve.

"It's always good to have consistency with your combinations and as a team so hopefully we can keep that same combination throughout the year."

While his burgeoning partnership with Marshall will require time, it's something the Dragons don't have if they want to make a late finals charge, with Widdop admitting Saturday's game with a severely under-strength Cronulla outfit is a must-win for his side.

"We've let ourselves the last month and a half but there's a still a long way to go," he said.

"There's over half the season left so we can turn it around quickly but it's important we start winning games now."

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