KICKOFF: Dragons turnaround about character not confidence

UNWAVERING: Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes said it was the character of his side rather than form that gave him belief heading into last week's elimination final against Brisbane. Picture: Adam McLean
UNWAVERING: Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes said it was the character of his side rather than form that gave him belief heading into last week's elimination final against Brisbane. Picture: Adam McLean

IT'S often said about confidence that no one knows where it comes from, or where it goes.

Speaking to Dragons players through their late-season form slump, they were certainly battling with the latter. Not that they'd readily admit it – to do so in rugby league is one of those cardinal sins.

It difficult because whenever as side is caught in a slump, the questions will inevitably be about confidence – and they're persistent. James Graham seemed jack of them in his media appearances last week.

“I was just in a funny mood last week,” Graham told Kickoff on Wednesday.

"Some of the questions you get asked, I feel, are just time filler and get a bit boring. I'm boring myself talking about it.”

Perhaps he gets tired of those questions because he's been around long enough to know you can't just click your fingers and find confidence. You certainly won't find it by answering questions about the lack of it.

Confidence and form will always ebb and flow. It's why coaches and successful footy sides don't bet their full stake on confidence. Instead, they'll speak about character.

Paul McGregor certainly does. It's been a constant mantra as he said before his side's match against Newcastle two weeks ago: “Whoever's making noise on the outside, they don't get that 80 minutes each week, players do.” 

That ethos meant McGregor saw last week's 48-18 demolition of the Broncos at Suncorp – the club's second ever finals win at the venue – less a form turnaround as the passing of a character test.

Character is more bankable than form. It's where Graham derived his faith through that period, where form and confidence was low. 

“It wouldn't have been very good if I was coming out and saying we were done, let's be honest,” Graham said of his faith.

“Thinking back, I looked at the potential within the group. It's OK to say that but you've got to look for some evidence. Without making it all about looking back, you look at what we did, and feed that fire. 

“You know it's still there, it doesn't just disappear, sometimes you've just got to try your best to unlock it.”

Hooker Cameron McInnes’ faith was similarly unwavering, and it had more to do with the type of people around him than current form.

"The belief never left us,” McInnes said.

“I haven't been around for that long but I've played footy my whole life. You go through rough patches, things don't go your way, you have performances you're not proud of, but I looked at the characters we have in this team.

“There's no arrogance, there's no ego. There's too many guys who are willing to work hard and put it all on the line. There was no way it could continue the  way we were going.

“There's plenty of teams over the last five years that have gone up and down and up and down but if you have strong character in your team good things happen.

“You look at Melbourne and their values. They've stayed at the top and, while they've had a lot of turnover of players, the character of their squad is what keeps them at the top. I believe we have that here at St George.” 

McInnes said that's what his side leaned on in Brisbane and what they'll lean on against South Sydney on Saturday, a match where they will once again start huge underdogs.

“We were all on the same page, we all had a common goal of just leaving everything on the field and not die wondering,” he said.

“We were obviously aware that not many people rated our chances very highly but we didn't care who thought what about us. It was a finals game, the atmosphere was outstanding and if you can't lift for that situation you'll never be able to.

“It was a sudden death game so, whether that brought the best out of us, I don't know, but we're in the exact same situation this week so we'll be able to do it again.

"We've got an opportunity and that's all we want, that's all we need, that opportunity. It doesn't matter where we finished, we're at the same starting point as Souths are now. We have all the belief in the world.”