St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor wouldn't swap his back-row for anyone – and after their demolition job on Brisbane last week, why would he?
The all-Origin trio of Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims and Jack de Belin were the driving force in the Dragons’ early season surge, earning NSW jumpers on the back of a 9-2 start to the season.
They were not immune to their side's mid-season form slump, but they roared back to life against the Broncos, sparking a 48-18 victory.
Sims had a first-half hat-trick while Frizell has been Paul McGregor's best forward over the last month. De Belin also put in a solid shift on injured ankle that would ordinarily see him miss 4-6 weeks.
He remains 50-50 for Saturday's semi-final clash with the Rabbitohs after hobbling off against the Broncos, but Sims said his efforts to make it on the park are inspiring enough.
“If it was up to Jack he’d definitely be playing, he’s as tough as a two-dollar steak,” Sims said.
“He had very light duties all last week. I’m assuming that’s what he’ll be doing again this week, but he’s just a footy player through and through.
“To see him push himself through that and put himself in those positions where he could potentially be injured for a long time, that really stiffens the spine of a lot of players.”
The Dragons have now won three of their last four games with Sims and Frizell back on their respective left and right edge after the latter spent time in the middle following a season-ending injury to Paul Vaughan.
It's a combination McGregor dubbed the best in the game and Sims made no secret of their ambition to be just that.
“Our back-row go into the game wanting to be the best back-row in that game and the NRL in general,” Sims said.
“We had a bit of a change-up there, we had a few personnel changes and what was best for the team was for us to change those positions.
“We’re footy players, we love playing footy and Mary’s a coach players love playing for. If he asks us to jump we just say ‘how high?.
“That’s the sort of attitude we’ve taken into every game this year.”
They'll come up against a Rabbitohs back row that's fairly handy in it's own right on Saturday in John Sutton, Sam Burgess and Angus Crichton.
It presents a mouth-watering edge battle between Sims and Crichton and the Dragons hardman says it's what his Blues teammate doesn't have – specifically a digit on his left hand – that best explains the challenge he poses.
“He's probably one of the fiercest competitors I've trained or played with,” Sims said.
“He's an all or nothing sort of player. There's no point dipping the toe in, you've got to jump in against Angus. It comes back to the sort of person he is, he'll literally cut his finger off to play for his teammates.
“They're the kind of people you want in your team. He's going to disfigure his body to stay on the football field.
“It might sound weird to [the media] or someone reading the paper, but a player that wants to cut his finger off rather than miss six to eight months of footy… that's powerful.
“You want to play with players like that so we've got our work cut out for us on Saturday.”