St George Illawarra left edge set for flying finish to NRL season

Take off: Nene Macdonald. Picture: AAP Image/Daniel Pockett.
Take off: Nene Macdonald. Picture: AAP Image/Daniel Pockett.

After making his name as a prolific right winger, Nene Macdonald made the move to the left flank ahead of the 2018 NRL season.

It’s a transition the Dragons flyer admits hasn’t been easy, but now with eight games remaining in the season, Macdonald is ready to take off in the run to the finals.

“We’re looking to finishing off the season really well,” Macdonald said. “We started off a little bit rusty on the left edge, but now we’ve really gelled.

“I was playing on the right last year with Euan [Aitken], now I’m on the left with Lafs [centre Tim Lafai] and he’s been really really good for me. Me, him and Gaz [Gareth Widdop] are forming a really good combination. 

“With Goat [Joel Thompson] leaving and Tariq [Sims] coming in, we’ve formed a really good combination. Obviously Tariq was out last week and I’m so stoked for him playing NSW, getting us all back together we’re going to finish off a good year.”

Often maligned as a boring and predictable attacking side, the Dragons put 30 points on the Melbourne Storm in Thursday night’s loss and pulled out a number of new plays in the process.

The most impressive being Luciano Leilua’s try following an inside ball from Lafai. The move caught the Storm defenders sliding in preparation for a Matt Dufty sweep play and allowed Leilua to stroll through untouched. 

Macdonald said it’s just one of numerous moves the Dragons have been practicing on the training paddock. 

“I think that’s been a really good play we’ve been practicing at training. I reckon Tariq was at home watching and he’d be burning because that would have been his ball if he was playing, so he’s missed out on one there.

“I think it’s a really good play for us, early ball for Tim’s going really well, it gives him time to play, he’s got a good little flick pass and he can pass on the inside as well.”

Macdonald himself has scored nine tries this season, with numerous, including one on Thursday, seeing him spectacularly ground the ball while airborne.

“I do practice a few at training just mucking around, but I never think it’s going to get that close during the game. This last game’s try, I’ve been copping it from everyone, ‘How’d you do it?”

“There’s kids today screaming ‘How’d you do it?’ I just say I’ve been practicing. So they say they’ll go to training tonight and that they are going to do it. It’s a bit of instinct and just growing up practicing it and it came off, it’s a pretty good feeling.”

While the Dragons have been maligned for their attack in recent seasons, it has been hard to fault their defence in recent years. Thursday emerged in stark contrast, with a number of defensive lapses costing the side in the final 15 minutes.

Macdonald said the side took great confidence from Thursday’s impressive attacking display, but they know they must improve their defence against the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon.

“We take confidence coming out of that match in our attack. We knew we could score tries every time we got down there and we did every time.

“Our defensive lapses let us down and they got through us a few times and scored a few more than us.”

Monday also saw the announcement that St George Illawarra forward Leeson Ah Mau will leave the club at the end of the season to join the Warriors.