Gareth Widdop shows he can deliver


Arise Saint Gareth.

It only took one game but already St George Illawarra's new cult hero, Gareth Widdop, is befitting of conductor status after so long being the main support act in the Melbourne orchestra.

Gareth Widdop sets up another attack at ANZ Stadium yesterday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

Gareth Widdop sets up another attack at ANZ Stadium yesterday. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

To understand the English international's impact, consider this: the Dragons had never scored more than 40 points in Steve Price's reign and the last time they passed that mark was mid-way through Wayne Bennett's first year in charge - in 2009.

"He's so patient and so calm which is just what we need for the young side we've got at the moment," Dragons skipper Ben Creagh lauded after Widdop had fired the Dragons to a crushing 44-24 win over an insipid Tigers at ANZ Stadium yesterday.

"There's no rushing out there and we're not trying to do things at a million miles an hour. He's really good that way."

Widdop racked up a personal points haul of 16 - eight from eight with the boot - as a resolute Dragons clawed their way back twice from 12-point deficits in the first half.

It was his impact with ball in hand which linger in the memory of his new disciples. Directly laying on three tries for his teammates, the 24-year-old is set to be worth every cent the Dragons paid for him after he tormented Tigers rivals Luke Brooks and Braith Anasta.

"Just a level of calmness," Dragons coach Steve Price said when asked what Widdop had brought to his side.

"He's a true professional in everything he does and he's a good leader within our footy club. He supports and backs our captain in Ben [Creagh] and he showed what type of quality player he is."

To lump all the credit on Widdop would be slightly unfair, however.

The disappointing Tigers, much like the Dragons in the first half, could have been playing basketball throughout as every time the Red V entered their red zone it seemed to be with success.

As temperatures nudged the high 20s on a warm afternoon in western Sydney, it was easy to see Widdop was schooled by the best in Storm string-pullers Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk.

"Being a dominant ball player I have to talk a lot more than I did [at Melbourne]," Widdop said.

"I sort of did a bit of talking down in Melbourne but with Coops [Cooper Cronk] being there, he called the majority of the shots and I played off the back of it.

"To come here and become the dominant ball player was exciting for me. I've had a lot of success down there in Melbourne but this is a young team and we're building for the future and I want to be a part of it."

Maybe the only disappointment was that not more fans had crammed into the Dragons' adopted homeground to watch the masterclass.

Continuing a trend of underwhelming opening round crowds, 19,860 trickled through the gates for the clash of two hugely popular Sydney sides.

It will matter little to Price, whose side recovered from a Charity Shield beating to be on the right side of a seven tries-to-four romp.

"We're a very proud club and we've got plenty of proud men," Price said.

"We were hurting [after the Charity Shield] but you don't get two points for trial games. Our main focus in the whole preseason has been gearing towards round one and we got the job done. Now we've got to do it next week [against the Warriors in New Zealand]."

Widdop's polished display and the 55-minute cameo from journeyman Michael Witt put Brooks and Anasta in the shade.

The latter looked lively as the Tigers raced to an early 18-6 lead but fell victim of their side's inability to stem the Dragons thereafter.

"I spoke to the halves about our last tackle options; they just weren't good enough," Tigers coach Mick Potter said.

"He [Brooks] probably would agree it was not his best performance and he has some work to do but that is fine. He is still a kid, he is still developing and he has got some people around him to help him."

The Tigers were also counting the cost of Liam Fulton's clash with the knee of his own fullback James Tedesco, which had him concussed and carried off .

Prop Aaron Woods was placed on report for a high shot on Brett Morris.


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