Dragons hit reset button ahead of final month

MERCURY.  NEWS. St George Illawarra Dragons back in training. 11 January 2018 . Picture: Sylvia Liber.
MERCURY. NEWS. St George Illawarra Dragons back in training. 11 January 2018 . Picture: Sylvia Liber.

HE can’t quite call it a best laid plan, but Dragons coach Paul McGregor admits a Central Coast getaway ahead of this week’s clash with Parramatta came at the perfect time.

McGregor and his staff scheduled a mini-camp in Terrigal six weeks ago, anticipating his side would need a freshen up for the final month of the season.

It’s unlikely they knew just how timely it would prove, with the trip coming hot on the heels of last Saturday’s loss to the Warriors – their fourth from their last five games. 

The slump, and it’s mirroring of recent history, would see most sides wracking their brains searching for a fix, but McGregor has encouraged his to do the opposite away from the training paddock. 

“It was planned six weeks ago, but the timing of it was pretty important considering we were coming off a couple of losses,” McGregor said of the trip. 

“To get away, was great timing. Logistically its hard to get the boys together because half live in Sydney and half live in Wollongong. Post-training they sort of go their separate ways.

“We had a good gathering on Sunday and didn’t talk about footy too much. One thing about my players is they certainly care a lot and sometimes, when you’ve got time away, it can be hard to to not look at a paper, to not turn on the phone, and just rest.

“I’m not going to tell a bloke to go home and not read a paper or to turn his phone off or not go and talk to a mate. It’s entirely up to them how they choose to do things but you obviously make them aware that time away from that’s going to help the mind. 

“When we’re at training we need high intensity and a lot of energy, when we’re away from training we need to turn off a few things, relax a bit and enjoy the downtime.” 

The trip brought welcome respite from the pressure that is mounting on the Dragons, who risk losing the top-four spot they’ve held all season should their wobbles continue.

It’s a scenario that seemed unthinkable even a month ago, but McGregor said his side’s belief hasn’t wavered despite the recent run of outs.

“When you’re going great, probably not going as good as people say, and when you’re going bad, you’re probably not going as bad as people say. That’s how footy works,” McGregor said.

“When you create what we did, we led the comp up until a month ago and we’re the only team that’s been in the top four [all season], I understand the [scrutiny].

“It’s good because we’ve built that. No one else had built it for us, we’ve built in ourselves and we’ve proven to anyone and everyone that we can beat any side. It’s important we finish what we started, and we’re in a position to do that.” 

With the slim exception of the Tigers, the Dragons remaining four games come against sides out of the top-eight running and McGregor said it’s important his side take strong form into the finals.

“The biggest thing about going into finals is building momentum,” McGregor said.

“Teams that go into the finals with momentum usually go well. When you look at last week’s game, and that’s all you look at at the minute, there were a lot of good things that came out of the second half. That’s got to be our starting base for the next month.

“For the 80 minutes [the Warriors] didn’t score a point when we had 13 points on the field and the second half we won 12-0. Although we didn’t execute well at times, I thought we played with a lot more energy and intent and that’s where it’s got to start there.” 

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