BLOCKER: Widdop, Merrin make the difference


I watched the Dragons play the Rabbitohs in the Charity Shield and I don’t think I’m being harsh in saying they were terrible. At times they looked completely out of their depth against a very strong South Sydney side.

But in the last couple of weeks they’ve shown how easy it is to turn a team around with just a couple of strike players.

I don’t want to go off too early as it’s only early in the season and sterner tests await for the Dragons, but I’ve been very impressed with their first two wins.

Players who leave Melbourne for so-called greener pastures usually have a terrible track record and seem to struggle.

But Gareth Widdop looks the complete opposite to me. He’s calm and in control of what he’s doing and I can’t stress enough how much of a difference he’s making to St George Illawarra. 

His organisational skills have turned this team completely around.

Gareth Widdop, Gerard Beale and Brett Morris celebrate the Dragons’ round-one win over Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium.

Gareth Widdop, Gerard Beale and Brett Morris celebrate the Dragons’ round-one win over Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium.

Widdop’s the No1 strike weapon, but for mine Trent Merrin has really lifted his game to another level, too.

 I know I’ve spoken about it already this season, but I can’t think of a player who is going to relish the new rules cracking down on cannonball tackles more than him.

I know I predicted the Dragons to narrowly avoid the wooden spoon before the season started, but their supporters shouldn’t get too carried away yet.

I like to consider the early rounds of the season akin to a boxing match. You have to win as many as you can because when push comes to shove later in the bout those early wins are like gold.

Maybe with Widdop and Merrin at the fore, the Dragons will still be throwing punches come the end of the fight.

Heat shock: Robbie Farah on the Gold Coast last weekend.

Heat shock: Robbie Farah on the Gold Coast last weekend.

Let's set things straight - the Wests Tigers won’t be going anywhere. 

Obviously this situation is very close to my heart and my passion has always been the Balmain Tigers.

It’s hard not to hear all the speculation about the club considering the Balmain Tigers Leagues Club’s perilous plight but we won’t be going to Perth. Or anywhere else for that matter.

Thankfully the NRL gave assurances the Tigers will stay exactly where they are.

Can you imagine if rugby league gave up that area stretching all the way from Leichhardt in the inner west right out to Campbelltown?

It’s one of the most populated corridors in the competition.

It would be like rolling out the red carpet for our major competitors and saying, ‘here, take this territory as now it’s all yours’. How much would the AFL and Football Federation Australia love that?

It’s just not going to happen. The area is too valuable to rugby league.

Don’t for a second think this situation hasn’t been coming. It’s been building for four or five years but the Tigers brand has got to – and will – find a way to survive. And that’s in Sydney.

Now is the time to act and consolidate the Tigers’ position in rugby league heartland.

Blind Freddy can tell you the strain on Sydney clubs is increasing by the day but the Tigers won’t be going anywhere.

The players won’t be using this as an excuse either. Players play footy and administrators look after administration.

Last thing on the mighty Tigers while I’m at it – whose hare-brained idea was it to schedule the game against the Titans at 2pm on a Sunday at the Gold Coast last week?

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out it might be hot in the Sunshine State during the day only a couple of weeks after summer passed. 

It was a ridiculous turn of events.

We bleat on about player welfare all the time and reducing the length of the competition but how about we use a bit of common sense with our scheduling?

Someone is going to end up with serious heat stroke if we’re not careful early in the season.

Needless to say the boys were pretty cooked last week but decided to aim up after a disappointing performance in round one. 

They just got on with the job.

But I will hate to see the day when someone can’t complete the same job if we again have to play in near 40 degree  temperatures.