St George Illawarra Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes is confident the team has addressed the defensive issues exposed by South Sydney in the Charity Shield.
The Dragons fell 22-18 after Bunnies dummy half Damien Cook exploited defensive deficiencies through the middle of the field.
However, McInnes feels the team’s overall trial performances were promising and he’s confident the Dragons will deliver in Thursday night’s season-opener against the Broncos.
“It will be great to start the year off on the right note,” McInnes said. “It can definitely set the tone for your year. Against the Broncos, it’s going to be a good challenge first up, but we’re ready for it and it will give us a good indication of where we’re at and where we’ve got to improve.
“You’re never where you want to be at this time of year, if you think you are there, then you’re dreaming. In attack we’ve put some good footy together and I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. It’s probably more our defence in certain areas.
“At this time of the year there’s always things for you to work on. If we can get our defence right against most teams, then we’ll be good.”
McInnes is confident adjustments have been made to ensure Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough doesn’t replicate Cook’s performance when he takes to the field on Thursday night.
“It’s not a concern. In some of the stats we saw, our missed tackles against Souths were half of what they missed and our tackle efficiency was over 90 per cent.
“It was just more the play the ball speed, we were letting them up too quickly.
“If we can put weight on them, work with the referees, we won’t have any problems with that, because our contact’s good and blokes working to get to tackles is good.
“There’s only little things we have to clean up so there’s no concerns with it, but it was a good opportunity for us to learn in that environment, in a game with no points on the line.”
The Broncos boast an explosive and unpredictable backline, led by halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima. The key to shutting those players down, according to Dragons centre Euan Aitken, is to get off the defensive line and take away their attacking space.
“We just need to get forward and make sure we make our one on one tackles,” Aitken said. “Obviously they’ve got quality players there, Jordan Kahu, James Roberts, if we get forward and defend together, I think we’ll shut them down.”
While the threat of rain hovers over Kogarah for Thursday night, McInnes believes there won’t be too many tactical adjustments for the Dragons.
“In terms of our game plan, it probably doesn’t change a lot because we’re a power based team with the big forwards we have,” McInnes said.
“With my kicking game, that’s something I am looking to implement a lot more this year. Also Ben Hunt’s such a great kicker of the footy, I reckon he’s probably one of the best in the game, so if he has a good look, then I’ll be giving him the ball.”