Dragons wary of Titans: Will Matthews

Will Matthews expects the Titans, under new coach Neil Henry, to fire up on Sunday. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Will Matthews expects the Titans, under new coach Neil Henry, to fire up on Sunday. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

RUGBY LEAGUE

Dragons forward Will Matthews's career began under John Cartwright and has been reborn this year with Paul McGregor.

The 26-year-old made his debut with the Gold Coast thanks to "Carty" in 2008 before joining the Dragons under Steve Price two years ago.

Since McGregor took over from Price this year, Matthews has been one of the main beneficiaries, playing 10 games with "Mary" calling the shots.

As the Titans adjust to change with Neil Henry in charge after Cartwright stood down, Matthews expects the players at his former club will want to prove a point at Kogarah on Sunday.

Henry was on the Dragons's radar to replace Price next year but Gold Coast moved to ensure he stays with the battling Queensland club, warding off any potential swoop by their Wollongong-based rivals.

While St George Illawarra tiptoe on the finals tightrope, Matthews believes the Titans have their own motivation of self-preservation.

The Gold Coast showed signs of a late-season resurgence under Henry, as they pushed premiership contenders the Sea Eagles last week.

"You always see it; clubs get a new coach and, for whatever reason, that change of scenery and a change up really helps them," Matthews said.

"Usually the team changes a little bit and blokes are trying to keep their spot, so it definitely picks up the intensity across the board.

"They're a really gritty type of side and sometimes they drag you into their style of footy and just play tough, so it'll be a tough one."

The Palm Beach Currumbin product said he was sad to see Cartwright step down.

"It was disappointing," Matthews said.

"He was the inaugural coach and I know he loves the club and has a lot of passion for it. For him to step down it would've been hard. Normally they're pushed out of the job but it would've still been a tough decision for him.

"It's something that he helped start so it would've been hard for him to let go but I suppose that's coaching these days. If you're not getting the results, that's what happens."

Price was sacked this year on the back of two-and-a-half poor seasons in charge, joining the Warriors's Matt Elliott and Sharks's Peter Sharp in the 2014 coaching casualty ward.

While Henry's future is increasingly secure, McGregor is trying to prove he deserves the role at St George Illawarra next year, with three games remaining and a finals berth up for grabs.

Tim Sheens has recently been linked to the Dragons, while Trent Barrett - touted as a future NRL coach - is expected to stay at Penrith, shunning any interest from his former club.

It's been a tumultuous year for coaches, with Andrew McFadden rejuvenating the Warriors finals hopes after Elliott's dismissal and the Sharks' James Shepherd holding the fort for Shane Flanagan's return after Sharp left.

McGregor's move into the top job has certainly paid dividends for Matthews, who is on track to notch 15 first-grade games in a season for the first time in his career.

"He's got a fair bit of faith in me which he's shown by giving me a good run so I'd definitely like to see him stay," Matthews said.

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