St George Illawarra under pressure as injured Vaughan struggles

Limping. Pained. Busted. 

Paul Vaughan’s leg injury could easily also describe the Dragons' form.

They have a month to save themselves, but will have to do so without a key forward who earned a State of Origin debut this year.

Hurt: Paul Vaughan. Picture: Adam McLean

Hurt: Paul Vaughan. Picture: Adam McLean

After leaving WIN Stadium in a moon boot on Saturday, Vaughan underwent scans and treatment, with an official diagnosis expected on Tuesday. It’s been complicated by concern over both the knee and ankle, but fears remain it will be deep into the finals before he could return. 

Winger Nene Macdonald is probably another week away. 

The Dragons have lost four of their last five and are now under threat of dropping out of the top four, for the first time all season. 

On Monday, Penrith, only below the Dragons on for-and against, sensationally sacked coach Anthony Griffin after months of murmurs about internal unrest at the Panthers. 

With Parramatta, Wests Tigers, Canterbury and the Knights to come, there will be major questions asked if the Dragons fail to finish in the top four. The players themselves have nominated a top-four finish as the bare minimum in terms of season benchmark, especially after the bitter feeling of missing the finals last year, when beaten by the Dogs in the final round. 

There was a significant shift in fan unrest after the loss to the Warriors at WIN Stadium. Supporters are crying out, asking why the Dragons are on the verge of another late-season flame out. 

Coach Paul McGregor and the football department spent a significant amount of time addressing last year’s meltdown and how to manage the squad. 

And there is no mood for Panthers-style dramatic change at the Dragons, the internal dynamic is completely different and St George Illawarra’s powerbrokers have their eyes fixed on finalising the new ownership structure. 

But they also know crunch time has arrived this season. 

It’s almost impossible to miss finals from here, but they can finish as low as eighth, a prospect unthinkable before Origin stared. 

 “It’s not going away until you win,” McGregor said after the Warriors loss.