Young Dragons on collision course with red-hot Eagles

IN FORM: Dragons five-eighth Joe Lovodua in action in his side's 26-20 win over Penrith in week one of the finals. Picture: NRL Photos
IN FORM: Dragons five-eighth Joe Lovodua in action in his side's 26-20 win over Penrith in week one of the finals. Picture: NRL Photos

DRAGONS Holden Cup coach Wayne Collins insists his young side will be unburdened by club history when they take on Manly in Saturday’s preliminary final.

The Dragons are no stranger to finals heartbreak at NYC level, having lost five prelim finals since the competition began in 2008, including last year’s 26-20 loss to eventual premiers the Roosters.

It’s something fans remember, but Collins said it’s far from his side’s collective mindset heading into the grand final qualifier.

“The boys aren’t really aware of it, somebody told me about it the other night and I wasn’t even aware of it,” Collins said.

“All you do is keep fighting hard to get that win on Saturday and get past that. St George have been up against hoodoos before, like first grade in Canberra and they got past that.

“We’ll stick together and do what we can to win the game. It’s all we can do.”

The Dragons earned themselves a week off with a gritty 18-14 win over Penrith in week one of the finals, and Collins said his side will take plenty of confidence out of the clash.

“The boys have showed a lot of fight in most our games throughout the year," he said.

“They did get behind twice in [first] semi and fought back to get to the lead.

“There’s plenty of character in the side and certainly a will to win for each other which is great.

“It was good to give three or four guys a little bit of a rest this week and look after a couple of niggling injuries that most teams have at this time of year.

“Watching them this week, they’re definitely running a little bit freer which is good to see. 

“We’ve trained really hard last week, we had the one day off, but this time of year you don’t get much down-time.

“You’ve got to keep preparing for some pretty tough games coming up and I’m sure they’re looking forward to Saturday.”

The Dragons will take on a Sea Eagles outfit on a North Queensland-like run from eighth spot, having upset the Cowboys and minor premiers Cronulla en route to the prelim.

“I did think they would give Cronulla a really good run because of the way they were playing,” Collins said.

“They had a really good win the week before and then come up against the most dominant team in the competition. 

“[Cronulla] probably weren’t at their best but it’s still a fair team to come up against and Manly did really well. We know we’ve got a strong team that’s in good form coming for us.” 

They’ve have had the wood on the Eagles this year, winning both their meetings but Collins is expecting a different Manly side on Saturday.

“It’s always a bonus when you know you can win and you’re not coming up against a team that’s beaten you during the season but there’s still a lot of things you’ve got to get right.

“That first 20 minutes is key in terms of holding the ball and kicking well. If we get those little things right we’ll give ourselves a really good chance of winning.”