Widdop leaves premiership predictions to the punters

BIG MILESTONE: Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop will play his 100th game for the club against the Warriors on Friday. Picture: Adam McLean.
BIG MILESTONE: Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop will play his 100th game for the club against the Warriors on Friday. Picture: Adam McLean.

Gareth Widdop didn’t listen to the bookies when they tipped his side to miss the finals, and he’s not about to start now they’ve made the Dragons premiership favourites.

Paul McGregor’s men were largely friendless in premiership betting prior to season kickoff, but have firmed into title favouritism on the back of a red-hot 6-0 start to the year.

Widdop has led the charge – sitting second in Dally M voting and leading the competition with 78 points – but the Dragons skipper said he’s happy to leave title predictions to the punters.

“They jump on it quick when you’re winning don’t they,” Widdop said.

“We all play this game to win premierships, there’s not doubt about that, but it’s about the process first. We’re certainly happy with the way we’ve started the season but there’s still areas we need to work on and improve.

“[Favouritism’s] a little bit different but we’re not worried about what people say externally. Everyone’s voicing their opinion and that’s fair enough but we’ve always said we can only control what we do internally.”

The Dragons will meet the third-placed Warriors in Auckland on Friday in what will be Widdop’s 100th game for the club since shifting from Melbourne at the end of 2013.

Recent history is littered with players who’ve left the Storm only to see their form plummet of a cliff, but Widdop believes it’s been the making of him.

“It’s gone quick when you say it’s a hundred games already,” he said.

“It feels like yesterday that I got here. At that stage of my career it was a big move, I had a few kids and a fair bit of support down in Melbourne.

“Melbourne are obviously a great team as well. To leave that behind and to move was difficult but at the same time I knew, for my football career, it was the best thing for me. 

“I moved here to take the next step in a leadership role and become more of a dominant player and. If I’d stayed in Melbourne I probably would’ve sat back a bit.

“I’ve certainly enjoyed my time here so far and being made captain of such a proud club with a big history has been an honour and a privilege.”

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing since making the move, with just one finals appearance in his four seasons amid large-scale changes in coaching and playing personnel.

However, having inked a four-year contract extension in 2017, Widdop said things have rarely looked as rosy as they do in his fifth season with the club. 

“It’s been a little bit of a roller coaster but, with that, you learn to adapt to change and you learn to deal with things that don’t go your way,” Widdop said.

“There’s been a hell of a lot of change in coaches and players since I came here in 2014 but the recruitment side of things have done a good job with the players they’ve brought in. .

“It’s been mentioned a lot I’ve had six or seven partners in the past so, in adding Ben [Hunt] there in the halves, it was good knowing I’d have stability for the next four or five years.

“We showed last year what we could do at times and I knew I wanted to be a part of this team and lead it moving forward.”