Published 2 September 2018 on foxsports.com.au
ST George Illawarra captain Gareth Widdop will be one of up to three players who could return when the NRL finals begin next week.
The Dragons are likely to host Brisbane in an elimination final after moving into sixth spot with an unconvincing ten-point win over Newcastle on Saturday.
However should the Broncos pump Manly by 23 points or more, it will be Wayne Bennett’s side who will jump over the joint venture and steal home ground advantage.
Should Brisbane obliterate the Sea Eagles by 32 points or more, they would also leapfrog Penrith into fifth spot and host the Warriors.
An unlikely fourth possibility – a shock loss against Manly – will mean the Broncos remain in eighth spot and instead face the Panthers in Sydney for their sudden-death final.
In that case, the Dragons will host the Warriors.
No matter who the opposition, coach Paul McGregor could have all three of Widdop (shoulder), Euan Aitken (hamstring) and Jason Nightingale (elbow) back from injury for the match.
Only Widdop is likely to train with the playing group this week.
“We get Gaz back next week, so our attack will improve straight away. So defensively we need to get that right,” McGregor said.
“We would’ve liked to have scored them opportunities we created and not turn over the possession we did, but we were good enough to defend it, which is the most important thing.
“(Aitken is) a good chance, too. And Jase is a chance as well. We’ll find out a little bit more about them two guys later in the week. But Gareth will do everything this week at training.” McGregor said he had seen enough improvement in the Dragons’ defence against the Knights to signal the end of their late-season slump.
His side had lost six of their past eight matches but defended 50 plays inside their 20-metre zone – compared to 12 – to receive a major boost in confidence ahead of the finals.
“You saw some of it today with our D. We wanted to really get back to being a strong defensive side, which we were for 16 rounds. We haven’t been that of late,” McGregor said.
“Today was a part of that. We found it at different stages.
“We’ve got to be better, there’s no doubt about that, but next week is a different competition. She’s knockout footy, so both teams are level.
“We’ve also beaten all the teams that are in there, so why not?”