SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 11: Gareth Widdop of the Dragons holds his injured shoulder during the round 22 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium on August 11, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The St George Illawarra Dragons will not be tempted to rush their star five-eighth Gareth Widdop back from injury anytime soon, despite playing for a home final this weekend.

Widdop, who suffered a dislocated shoulder in Round 22, will be kept on ice in order to be ready for their all-or-nothing final in a fortnight’s time.

The Dragons’ top four hopes were dashed after their disappointing loss to the Bulldogs last weekend, which also saw the club gain even more unwanted injuries.

Both Jason Nightingale (dislocated elbow) and Euan Aitken (hamstring) will also be absent for the team who face the Knights in their last home and away season game for 2018.

St George, who are preparing for their first finals series since 2015, are not prepared to expose Widdop too early as they’ll need the star to guide them to victory if they are to make it deep into September.

The building casualty ward at the Dragons could open the door for youngster Zac Lomax to get a run in the starting line up in what will be a revamped backline for the Red V.

Despite not featuring this weekend, Widdop has provided some of his experience to fellow teammate Matt Dufty after he was relegated to the bench last weekend.

Coach Paul McGregor was aiming to give his fullback a rest before finals after playing every minute this season, bar a sin-binning against the Warriors, but was called into action due to Aitkens injury.

When asked if he’ll retain the number one jersey, Dufty told reporters he thought he would slot right back in there.

“I’ve played every game there now and the boys know I won’t let them down,” Dufty said.

“When Gaz [Widdop] comes up to you after the game and says, ‘me and you are going to have to win us the next few games’ … for a young kid like me that’s very inspiring and it helps to lift your head a bit after a tough loss.”

Fans were left angier and unamused by the Dragons dismal performance against the Dogs, seeing them go down 38-0, their biggest loss to Canterbury in the joint ventures history.

Dufty has responded to those hecklers stating without coming across as being rude but they need to wake up.

“They forget where we were at the start of the year and they’re so quick to turn. I think they’ve just got to remember we’re in the finals and instead of throwing criticism they can show their team a bit of support. They’ve got to remember we’re all part of the one club,” Dufty said.

“Obviously we’ve got some great fans and when we’re going good we’ve got the best fans, but they’ve got to remember how we were going at the start of the year and we get our skipper back in a week or two.

“Everything’s looking positive and we’re in the finals. It’s not every year you make the finals and we’re going to get excited for that.”

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