PERFORM or perish. That's the clear message from Dragons coach Paul McGregor in leaving more than 700 games worth of NRL experience on the sideline in round three.
The Dragons will resume their season looking to bounce back from an 0-2 start, with McGregor leaving the likes of Trent Merrin, Issac Luke and Tim Lafai out of his 17 for Saturday's clash with the Warriors.
Josh Kerr and Tyrell Fuimaono - who boast just 38 games between them - retained their spots with Merrin and Jacob Host making way for Tariq and Korbin Sims.
McGregor's also retained Matt Dufty, who appeared on the outer through preseason, with Zac Lomax shifting to the centres at the expense of Lafai.
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Skipper Cam McInnes said the changes reflect the blank selection slate players returned to after more than two months away, with even the club's biggest names on notice.
"Mary's picked the side that deserves to play," McInnes said.
"Everyone's fit and ready to go and at training everyone was putting their hand up, there was some great competition, and he's decided to make a few changes because guys have warranted that.
"Combinations are great, but only if everyone's playing well enough. When really good players are missing out, it shows how hard everyone's been working.
"Duft's done a great job training-wise to put his hand up for that spot and he knows what he has to do to keep it. It's the same for me, it's the same for Corey[Norman], Hunty [Ben Hunt], everyone.
"Whoever's in the side knows you've got to work and you've got perform otherwise someone's there to take your spot."
With no NSW Cup on offer, players who miss out on the top-grade 17 will go without football each week, with Kerr saying McGregor has made it abundantly clear training performances will hold more weight than reputations.
"Mary was pretty straight and up front with us that, if you're not going to perform, he will put the jersey on someone else," Kerr said.
"[In the past] he's thrown a bit more faith towards those more experienced boys. If one of the more experienced guys might not have had the best game, he'd give them another chance because they've been there and done it before.
"We're at a point now where, if you're not performing, you're out. No one's safe is the way he put it. If you're not playing well someone else will.
"With there not being a reserve grade side to play in, everyone's going hammer and tongs at training. There is a lot of healthy competition going on at the moment throughout the club."
Saturday's clash with the Warriors will be Kerr's third straight top-grade appearance, a first in his career, with the 24-year-old admitting he's at the now or never stage of his career.
"Turning 24, it was my fourth first grade preseason, it was a bit of a do-or-die situation for me," he said.
"I was lucky to get rounds one and two in. I was starting to build some momentum, the second game was probably the best game of first grade I've played and I was building a lot of confidence.
"I want to play NRL and be in that starting team so I just came out and played like that. I wanted show I was ready and I had that aggressive attitude towards wanting that spot."