Widdop looking to close Dragons revolving halves door

SOLID FOOTING: Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop wants to build a strong combination with Josh McCrone this season. Picture: Adam McLean
SOLID FOOTING: Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop wants to build a strong combination with Josh McCrone this season. Picture: Adam McLean

ST GEORGE Illawarra skipper Gareth Widdop admits he’s craving stability after seeing a revolving door of halves partners come and go in his three seasons with the club.

The instability goes all the way back to his first appearance for the club in round one 2014 when NRL journeyman Michael Witt left the field with a shoulder injury midway through the Dragons match with the Tigers.

The likes of Sam Williams, Adam Quinlan, Josh McCrone, Drew Hutchison and even Jack de Belin have since partnered him at the scrum-base while his most consistent partner Benji Marshall endured an injury-riddled 2016 campaign that saw him sidelined for 10 games.

Hutchison was set to be his long-term halves partner before suffering a season-ending ACL injury, leaving Josh McCrone to duke it out with young-gun Jai Field for first crack at the No.7 with coach Paul McGregor opting for the veteran for the opening two games of the season.

The lack of continuity prompted the club to lure Brisbane half Ben Hunt south on six-year multi-million deal to provide Widdop – who is off-contract this season – a regular foil.

Hunt won’t arrive until 2018 and Widdop hopes he and McCrone can form a lengthy partnership this season.

‘I’ve played with a few halfbacks since I’ve been here so hopefully we can get a good solid run this year together and become a strong combination,” Widdop said.

“[Constant changes] are never ideal. Where you can keep your spine together as long as possible it certainly helps you get your combinations firing.

“At times it has been difficult, each and every player is different and they play in different ways but hopefully this year we can have a strong combination myself and Josh and have a good year.

“The more we play together the more we train the better we’ll get and I’m sure things will work out.”

Widdop equaled Amos Roberts and Jamie Soward’s joint club record of 22 points in a round one thumping of Penrith but said his side’s attitude was poor against Parramatta last week.

They’ll face a red-hot Sharks outfit, fresh off a 42-16 hammering of Canberra, in Sunday’s local derby but Widdop believes it’s a simple fix.

“Against Penrith we went out there and we wanted to out-enthuse them with our energy and do the hard stuff and on the weekend we probably looked for the easy option,’ Widdop said.

“Right from the kickoff we just made it hard for ourselves and there were chances where we could’ve got back in the game and we didn’t, just simple errors, penalties, poor defence. 

“You just can’t do it this competition, it’s too tough and teams are too good.

“It was a disappointing result after round one, we did a lot of good things, and it was going to be the biggest test and show of character to back it up and that’s the disappointing thing.

“It’s still early on and we know what we can do because we proved it round one, we just need to go out there with the right attitude.”