Blake Lawrie remembers the pain of St George Illawarra’s 2018 NRL finals defeat vividly.
The pain that came after Adam Reynolds landed three field goals in the space of 11 minutes to sink the Dragons premiership hopes and send them out of the competition.
And it’s a feeling that will drive him throughout the upcoming NRL preseason.
‘”It was a crap way to lose,” Lawrie said. “It was a crap feeling.
“When I was talking to Jai Field after the match, we were saying how terrible it felt. That was only our first, second game of finals and it was a crap feeling. We want it so bad to play next year in the finals and go better.”
Lawrie was among the first group of Dragons players to return to WIN Stadium this week, with the squad’s younger members enduring their first week of what will be a four-month-long preseason.
After making his NRL debut in 2017 as a much-heralded emerging talent, Lawrie’s progress stalled somewhat in 2018. The prop forward played just nine games in the top-flight, with Jeremy Lattimore and Leeson Ah Mau locking down bench positions.
Lawrie is the first to admit he lost his way slightly throughout the season. With a first-grade opportunity not opening up and Lawrie comfortable in a talented NSW Cup side, the Dapto Canaries junior concedes he stopped doing the little things that could have helped him knock down that first grade door.
This next season, he vows, will be different.
“I fell away at times. I didn’t lose hunger, I just got comfortable playing reserve grade. I didn’t want to slack off, I wanted to put in the work, but didn’t want it that bad so I stopped doing extras.
“If I’m in that boat again in the 2019 season, I’ll be doing extras every day, working very hard to get back in the top team.”
With injuries mounting, Lawrie was thrown into the Suncorp Stadium cauldron during the Dragons elimination final against Brisbane. In 38 minutes of action, the 21-year-old thrived, playing a key role in his side’s victory.
Having had that taste of finals football, Lawrie is now determined to ensure he becomes a regular first-grader in 2019.
“I finally got an opportunity to give the trust back to Mary, what he put in me to put me out there in the first place. That’s my level, my par now, I’ll be looking to go bigger and better in the 2019 season and build on it each game.”
“Mary kept the end-of-season review pretty short, he thought I developed some momentum ending the 2018 season. He wants me to build on that at the start of the 2019 season and I’ll be putting my front foot forward to do so.”