Dragons look to livewire Quinlan for critical clash

St George Illawarra fullback Adam Quinlan. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

St George Illawarra fullback Adam Quinlan. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

RUGBY LEAGUE

The last time Adam Quinlan visited the Gold Coast he returned with a split lip and the scar he bares a year on is a physical reminder of an NRL debut he won't forget in a hurry.

There will be no Jamal Idris to run at with his first touch this time, but the trip to the holiday strip is arguably more important for the Dragons and their livewire fullback this year as their season remains a desperate balancing act.

"A year ago I couldn't believe I was where I was," Quinlan said after a miraculous around-the-corner pass couldn't quite inspire the Dragons to victory over Penrith on Saturday night.

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"I got an opportunity to debut up there and to play as many games as I have I never thought it would happen. I've grown a lot as a player and I think I've improved a helluva lot since then.

"I've just got to keep working on that and hopefully keep building."

For all the arguments about Josh Dugan's suitability at centre for the Red V, it's easy to forget Adam Quinlan was the reason coach Paul McGregor thought his hand was forced.

He made it is his first point of business to re-introduce the Culburra junior back into the NRL side and Quinlan hasn't let him down with a string of promising performances.

The logic? The Dragons were a far more potent side with the diminutive Quinlan wearing the No 1 in the first month of the season than anything they showed since.

"I'm very thankful and grateful for the opportunity [McGregor] gave me there," Quinlan said.

"It was a big call he made and my job now is to repay him with performances.

"I think I'm getting better each week," he said.

And he'll need to be. Both sides will be hoping they come through State of Origin commitments unscathed, but the clash is starting to take on extra significance as both sides begin to lose touch with the top eight.

Yet try telling the Dragons time is starting to run out on a season that started with so much promise.

"We're growing more and more each week, especially after the win against Cronulla and keeping them to nil," Quinlan said.

"To put in a performance like that [against Penrith] and score the same amount of tries against the competition leaders ... the confidence just keeps building each week and it's starting to show in our performances."

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