ST GEORGE Illawarra coach Paul McGregor is expecting a long-term return on his decision to embrace representative football after several of his stars produced impressive performances over the rep round.
The Dragons initially had a staggering 19 players selected across all matches including four players in Sunday’s City-Country clash. The weekend will cost the club star fullback Josh Dugan for three weeks after he fractured his cheekbone playing for Australia last Friday night.
City-Country also saw Jack de Belin miss five weeks with a shoulder injury last year with that potential high price seeing the likes of Des Hasler and Ricky Stuart pull their players from the rep fixtures this season,
Representative football may yet take a further toll with the likes of Cameron McInnes, Paul Vaughan and Jack de Belin all mounting a case to join incumbents Tyson Frizell and Dugan in the NSW line-up.
It could mean his side is running on some heavy legs over the latter half of the season but McGregor said it’s ultimately the club that benefits in time.
“Certainly it’s not the instant success or benefit you get from it, you get it over a period of time,’ McGregor said.
“It’s a reward for how the team’s playing. That’s number one and then you get your personal rewards from that. I’m not going to stand in someone’s way where they want to further their career through a representative jumper.
“For the guys who get to go back and represent Samoa and Tonga and their nations and their heritage it’s a very proud moment for them so to take that away from them is not fair.I thought the boys involved played really well throughout the weekend. It’s certainly good to have them back at training with one casualty [Dugan] but we do play a collision sport so that’s going to happen.
“Those guys who went well that are in line for a NSW jumper, they get another chance to perform Friday night against Cronulla on the big stage. It’s a chance to show the selectors and everyone involved in State of Origin just how good they are against a quality football team.”
The Dragons will be looking to halt a mini-slide of two straight losses when they host the Sharks on Friday. The defending premiers are no doubt still smarting from a 16-10 loss inflicted on home soil in round three but McGregor is more focused a return to the standards that took his side to the top of the competition.
“Obviously my job is about winning and losing, and I accept that, but for the players it’s about the process and how well they prepare to play,” McGregor said.
“Once we get out there it’s all about [meeting] our standards around our effort. It’s always a nice tight contest [against the Sharks], very physical. They’re a talented squad, a really experienced squad and they like to spoil and play a really bullish game to frustrate you.
“We’ve just got to keep to our game, no distractions, play Dragons footy together and rise above some setbacks that we’ve had.”