DRAGONS coach Paul McGregor has torn up the script from his side’s round-two victory over Cronulla, expecting Friday night’s return clash in Wollongong to be a different beast.
He’s not planning on being 14-0 down for starters, but the Sharks line-up the Dragons face on Friday will have a very different look to it despite the sides having met just three weeks ago.
A combination of form and injury troubles has seen Sharks coach Shane Flanagan struggle to settle on solid spine in a 2-3 start to the season. Friday’s derby will see more changes with the return from injury former Dragon Josh Dugan in the centres.
Dugan played at fullback in round two with Matt Moylan at five-eighth, though Moylan switched back to his customary fullback role in last week’s loss to the Roosters. His performance caught the eye of McGregor despite the heavy defeat.
“Moylan played fullback last week and he played quite well so we had a bit of a look at him and what he did,” McGregor said.
They’ve had some distractions and changes in their back-line. I think they’ve had eight in the first five rounds, some of that’s out of necessity or finding the right balance.
“As a coach you put a player where he’s the best fit for the football team. Josh played centre for me in 2014 and again last year because it was the best fit for our footy team at the time. The Sharks obviously feel the best fit for Josh is right centre.
“Hodko’s [Trent Hodkinson] an experienced player there on the left edge, they’ve brought in a new winger in [Edrick] Lee so they’ve made a few changes but it’s really about focusing on us and what we need to do.”
The Dragons will be gunning for a sixth straight win on home soil but, with only four points separating the fierce rivals across their last three meetings, McGregor said his side will need to be up for a scrap.
“There’s no doubt when the two sides come together it’s physical. It’s always going to be that,” he said.
“Cronulla are a quality side right across the board. They’ve finished fifth twice in the last three years and they’ve won a premiership.
‘”They play with a lot of passion, a lot of resilience and they’re very physical so we’ve got to make sure when our character’s tested where up for it. It’s won in a few small areas because they’re always close contests.
“You know what’s coming and they’ll know what’s coming, we’ll meet in the middle and see who comes out the other side.”