Dragons 2018: De Belin set to defy pain of injured ankle for another week

TOUGH: Jack de Belin at training. Picture: Adam McLean
TOUGH: Jack de Belin at training. Picture: Adam McLean

HOW tough is Dragons lock Jack de Belin? He's carrying an ankle injury that would keep most players out for four to six weeks for a start.

If he's not scared of needles, he's sick of them having played with pain-killing injections since round nine as he wrestled a niggling rib complaint pre and post-Origin.

He'll do the same against South Sydney this week and, barring any late mishaps, with coach Paul McGregor saying on Friday he expects his side to be 1-17.

They're not the actions a player who shut up shop after a series win with the Blues as some have suggested, but de Belin admits it was a mental challenge going down the other side of that mountain.

“I can see where they're coming from but it's not the case at all,” de Belin said.

“Rugby league's a weird kind of game, sometimes you can be trying your guts out and things just don't go your way and you're down on your luck. 

“In a sense it is difficult you work so hard to reach the pinnacle of the sport and once you make it you've got to come back down again. It was difficult going from such a big arena to coming back to club footy but, individually, I need to be better.

“It doesn't matter what goes on, week in, week out you've got to perform. I hadn't necessarily done that after the Origin series and I've got no one to blame but myself for that.

“I wasn't really alone there, as a team we weren't performing. It was a difficult little period there but I think going into the finals was perfect for us. All you've got to do is make the top eight to give it a little shake-up and we did that last week, we're looking to do it again this week.”

De Belin completed a light run on Thursay but sat out Friday's captain's run, with the final call likely to be made before kickoff. It'll be another tough effort, but de Belin said his body's actually held up well.

“I've been pretty lucky I haven't had any serious injuries,” he said.

“Most of them have been little niggly ones that you need time to get right, at this time of year you don't have any time to get right. It's been difficult, I'd be lying if I said it wasn't but, I wouldn't have it any other way.”

McGregor said the determined effort to get onto the park underlines de Belin's importance to his side, particularly against a Souths pack regarded as the best in the competition.

“He's a very, very good player and he proved that this year in the highest arena of Origin footy for the first time in his career,” McGregor said.

"He's not a young bloke anymore, he's well into his career, and with that comes leadership and that experience he gets, he needs to bring that back to his club.

“You can go around and ask any player, I don't think any player's playing at a hundred per cent [fitness] this time of year.”

The glaring absence of skipper Gareth Widdop aside, McGregor will have the same 17 that blew Brisbane off the park last week, with youngster Zac Lomax retaining his place at right centre despite the availability of Euan Aitken.

It'll put the teenager head to head with childhood idol Greg Inglis.

“We've got our forward pack that took the field last week, the only change is Kurt coming in for Gareth and we'll bring an interchange player in, otherwise we're one to 17 from last week,” McGregor said.

"Euan's  coming back from a hamstring problem which is a difficult one at this time of the year and he hasn't really hit over 80 per cent speed.

“He was available for selection but we're not pushing him right now, we didn't go down that road.

"GI's a special player. It doesn't matter if you're most experienced player in the competition or the least experienced, he's going to give you problems, but the kid'll go well.”