Gone are the team choc full of superstars, that most NRL fans expected could take the Premiership a few years back; now we see a team driven by desire and ready to take a more relaxed approach to the big stage in the weeks ahead.
Much maligned prop Jason Ryles is the first to admit, the Dragons won’t be changing too much of their style as seen in the regular season rounds so far. Something of which the opposite was true in recent finals campaigns where the St George Illawarra side may have been guilt of ‘panicing’.
Bound for the UK Super League with French front runners Les Catalans next season, Ryles said his side’s finals campaigns of â€˜05 and â€˜06 weren’t helped by changes to the game plan which had been so successful in getting the Dragons into the finals in the first place.
â€œWe’ve learnt by not changing anything at the last minute,â€ Ryles confirmed.
â€œIn â€˜05 and â€˜06 especially, we changed stuff and it didn’t work out, we’ll keep stuff as simple as possible and kick-chase hard getting our game comes from that.
â€œWe chatted about this a month ago”
â€œWe haven’t taken too much out of (last week’s loss to the Roosters), we just want to keep improving.â€
Back in the NRL 2006 finals campaign, the Red and Whites changed their then skipper and pivot Trent Barrett into dummy half to get regular season halfback Mathew Head into the starting lineup.
It meant the Dragons had ‘too many cooks’ with Head, Barrett and creative Ben Hornby all fighting each other for the main play-making role as the Dragons went down to eventual runners up Melbourne.
In 2008, Nathan Brown believes they need to stick with what has worked during the regular season. But Brownie is unsure as to who will start at pivot against Manly in Saturday night’s big clash, with Ben Rogers going well for his new club and the now fit Jamie Soward available and wanting to return.
Soward, the Dragons’ highest scoring Dally M contender, has been the clubs pivot for most of 2008 before a back injury hampered his campaign in the Round 22 defeat to the Wests Tigers.
Thats when departing Bunnies and journeyman Ben Rogers, stepped up and had blinders against Brisbane, the Warriors and Parramatta getting the red and whites into the final Top 8.
Even when Soward became available coach Nathan Brown chose to keep Rogers in the mix for continuity.
But their latest outing against the Roosters may have exposed the kicking flaws in the Ben Rogers game, something Brownie has been considering as Soward waits in the wings. As they say a week is a long time in Rugby League, especially around finals time.
Rogers has so far been chosen at pivot with Soward a reserve, but Brown is keeping cards close to his chest so far as to the final makeup.
â€œAll those things are a possibility,â€ Brown said.
â€œSowey’s obviously fit again now and he obviously brings different things to the team than Benny Rogers does.â€