Maybe it’s the Wayne Bennett factor. Or the red-and-white jumpers.
But, just as the Dragons did in 2010 when they brought the NRL premiership trophy back to Wollongong, England captain Sean O’Loughlin maintains a unwavering belief.
O’Loughlin stood on the WIN Stadium hill on Tuesday, reflecting on the tournament opening loss to raging tournament favourites Australia in Melbourne.
Rather than denting the confidence, O’Loughlin maintains the plucky Poms are capable of producing something special in this World Cup campaign.
O’Loughlin is hoping for another shot at Australia in the final in a few weeks time.
“There’s definitely the belief in the team and that’s definitely the aim,” he said. “As long as we’re working at our best and making sure we keep improving, we feel we’ve got a good chance.”
A long ball from Dragons captain Gareth Widdop to winger Jermaine McGillvary sparked hopes of a World Cup boilover, before Australia steadily overpowered England 18-4.
Taking time away from the English campaign, O’Loughlin and national teammate and Super League rival, Hull’s Scott Taylor had the chance to check out the scene for next year’s showdown at WIN Stadium.
The next time they return, they’ll be facing off for competition points in February, the first time two Super League clubs have done so outside Europe.
Dragons fans still revere Bennett for the drought-breaking 2010 heroics, having played just three NRL finals games since without success. O’Loughlin said Bennett has breathed new confidence into England because of his approach.
“I was really looking forward to this competition as a player and working underneath him to see how he operates,” he said.
“It’s really simple, a lot of the stuff he’s done, it’s about doing the basics well. Those small little errors can really cost you, so we know we to have that kind of patience in international games.”
Taylor had his hands on the Challenge Cup final in August, when Hull beat O’Loughlin’s Wigan 18-14 in the final at Wembley.
The World Cup roommate of James Graham, Taylor reckons the St George Illawarra recruit’s experience and ball-playing are just what the Dragons and England need. “It’s not just experience, they’re top blokes and top players, (Graham is) going to be a big difference for the Dragons next year to go that step further,” he said.