If the Dragons can't fight their way back to the finals in 2024, it won't be because of a tough draw. That was the first reaction when the schedule dropped on Monday.
By all the usual measurable standards - travel, turnarounds, finals opposition - they've been dealt a favourable hand for Shane Flanagan's first season in charge. Looking at it on paper, there's no question it's a schedule conducive to a finals return.
The Dragons begin their season with a Queensland road double against the Titans and Dolphins but, barring some sort of preseason injury disaster, they'll be fresh as they'll be all year to take it on.
Beyond that first-up double, they head interstate just twice and avoid a trip to New Zealand. It's a stark contrast to last season that saw them play five of their first 11 games in Queensland, with two five-day turnarounds.
As the club pointed out in its own draw announcement, it will only have to travel a total of 7,077 kilometres, far below the premiership average of 23,561 kilometres.
Even taking into account what the likes of the Warriors, Cowboys and Storm contribute to the overall average, the Dragons' travel toll is a substantially smaller burden when compared to others.
Four of the club's last five games come at home, with the only trip in that time a drive west to Parramatta, while Flanagan will only have navigate one five-day turnaround all season.
All told, the Dragons play 11 games against incumbent top-eight teams and play just three of them twice. Reigning premiers Penrith are the only top four side they face on more than one occasion.
They also play fringe top eight sides the Rabbitohs, Eels and Cowboys just once and come up against all bottom six teams (excluding themselves) twice; that's the Tigers, Bulldogs, Titans, Dolphins and Sea Eagles.
Four of their first six games are away matches, but only one comes against a top-eight side from last season - the Knights in round five.
After being dealt the dreaded round-one bye last season, the Dragons look well served by where they fall in 2024. It obviously comes down to how they're travelling at the time but, without a crystal ball, the weeks off seem ideally placed.
The first comes in Magic Round but, given results in that showpiece since it began, it's a trip the Dragons could well do without. They'll get another freshen up in round 16 and will head into a home clash with Penrith in round 21 fresh off their third bye.
Flanagan will need to navigate the opening road schedule, but the Dragons fortunes will likely hinge on how they come through what shapes, on paper, as a very advantageous Origin period.
The Dragons first clash with the Panthers comes in round 13. It's sure to see the Panthers take the park without a host of stars given the likes of Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin and Brian To'o are all virtual certainties to be in NSW camp ahead of Origin I and Jarome Luai and Dylan Edwards will also be in the mix.
The Dragons will also be without Ben Hunt, the only incumbent Origin player on Flanagan's roster, but a round-16 bye means they won't have to go around without their skipper ahead of Origin II.
Even when they face Penrith and Melbourne in consecutive weeks in round 21-22, they'll be freshened by a round-20 bye with every chance both the Panthers and Storm will be nursing a traditional post-Origin hangover.
Such conclusions seem self-evident, but it's a hurdle at which the Dragons have traditionally fallen hard, the most glaring example a blow-out 32-18 loss to a reserve grade Broncos ahead of Origin III in 2022.
Given they broke even at 12-12 that season and finished a win off the top-eight pace, it's the one result that stuck out in yet another painful debrief come season's end.
Banishing that ghost in round 19 next year may prove the difference between reaching the eight or missing out, but the whole Origin period could prove the axis on which those finals hopes swing.
Our news app has had a makeover, making it faster and giving you access to even more great content.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.