The St George Illawarra Dragons have shown up a large percentage of rugby league fans with their brilliant results to date.
Many, myself included, had the Dragons finishing in the bottom few after an off-season recruitment drive that looked less than impressive.
Not only did they lose their opening two fixtures of the season, but they also lost arguably their best player in Trent Merrin to Penrith just weeks into the 2015 season.
In round three, it looked as though Canberra would put 50+ on them after rushing out to an early 18-0 lead. The Dragons showed some serious fight and were able to pinch the competition points through a 74th minute try.
Fast forward to the completion of round 10, and the Dragons were sitting pretty atop the NRL ladder with seven wins from the opening ten games.
Benji Marshall’s form this season has been such that he has, at times, led the Dally M medal count, while his halves partner Gareth Widdop has more than proven what a great player he is.
Although the Dragons 2015 recruits weren’t firing per say, it was their previously unheralded stars such as Joel Thompson, Tyson Frizzel and Mitch Rein who were the catalyst for their surprising form.
That being said, NSW fullback Josh Dugan has probably been the Red V’s player of the season to this stage.
Their 14-12 victory over heated rivals the Roosters on Anzac day was a true highlight, and showed that they were indeed a force to be reckoned with.
Dragons fans who couldn’t believe things could possibly get any better, were on cloud nine following the club’s 42-6 victory over local rivals the Sharks. If the referees had thrown the Sharks opening try to the video, it could have very well been a shutout.
Following the Dragons mammoth win over the Sharks, the Dragons have dropped three straight games, including a hugely disappointing 14-12 loss to the struggling Eels.
Critics are now asking as to whether the Dragons bubble has burst.
I’m not willing to go that far just yet, but the next three games for the Red V are absolutely season defining.
Tonight they will host a severely depleted Cowboys side, before travelling to play local rivals The Sharks, before playing the Bunnies.
If they can re-find their early season form, they could realistically win all three games, however if they can’t click into gear, it’s possible they could lose all three.
The competition is so close this year that a three game winning, or losing streak, can send you from the top four, to battling to stay in the top eight.
If the Dragons have genuine top four ambitions they surely have to win at least their next two games. The Cowboys are without both halves and their starting front row. The Sharks have been good over the past month, but they should be a side a top four side can beat.
A lot will depend on how Josh Dugan comes through Wednesday Night’s Origin decider. He has been brilliant all year and has formed quite the combination with his star halves partners.
Trent Merrin, the Dragons second Origin star, is also having a brilliant season, and should be better for not having the Origin series to worry about.
Three weeks from now we will have a much clearer view of the Dragon’s chances in terms of premiership glory, but for now, questions remain.
Cooper The Key
For all the talk of Greg Inglis moving to the fullback position, Cooper Cronk is the genuine key when it comes to QLD’s chances on Wednesday Night.
As good as DCE and Michael Morgan are, neither has the experience or combination with Johnathan Thurston.
By all reports Cronk is fit and raring to go, however hasn’t played since prior to Origin Two.
Almost a month out of the game can be tough for even the best of players, however Cronk is in the elite and shouldn’t take long to re-find his feet.
As for the Blues, Hodkinson is the key. He was woeful in Origin One and the blues suffered as a result. His Origin Two effort was almost the polar opposite, and the Blues looked in control.
Roosters Clearing The Decks?
The Roosters will say goodbye the superstar fullback RTS and their star five-eighth James Maloney in 2015, as well as young gun Nene MacDonald, who has already left for the Gold Coast.
That’s a fair amount of salary cap space, and talent that has exited the Bondi club. Joe Burgess will likely move to the wing, or perhaps even centre, allowing Blake Ferguson to move to fullback, but they’re fairly cashed up.
Are they clearing the decks should Jarryd Hayne become available?
Possibly, but it’s not like they’re struggling for stars. Jackson Hastings is a superstar in the making and will likely slot into the number six spot.