One eye on the prize... Dragons pivot Gareth Widdop says every game is crucial from here on in. Credit: Robb Cox. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop says that unless they start winning soon, it won't be long until they start scurrying around for the nearest NRL finals calculator.
"When it starts coming to the back end of your season, you'll have to," Widdop told NRL.com. "You have to look at where you sit on the ladder and look at how many games you need to win. But it's a process, we've just got to keep improving."
After falling to their eighth defeat of the season in an 18-14 tester at Penrith last Saturday, the joint venture club is precariously placed four points out of the top eight at the halfway mark of the NRL season.
And with another challenging road trip to the Gold Coast this weekend, Widdop says every week from here on in is vital if they are serious about playing in September.
"Every game is crucial. [On Saturday] we were going out there to win, like we do every single week," he said.
"It's going to be a tough challenge up there away next week against the Titans. But if we can improve again on what we dished out there [against Penrith], I think we're a good chance of coming away with the two points."
Interim coach Paul McGregor described his side's fighting loss to Penrith as their best effort of the season, an observation the former Storm pivot didn't disagree with.
The Dragons pushed the competition leaders for the entire 80 minutes, coming within a try of backing up a 30-0 shutout of the Sharks the week before.
"I definitely thought there were a lot of positives from that game. Even though we didn't get the two points, I still think it was a much improvement compared to the last few weeks," he said.
"The effort was there, we tried hard, the execution dropped off a little bit, and a few dropped balls. But I thought it was a good performance."
Widdop says he's also been encouraged by his developing combination with mid-season purchase Benji Marshall, stressing that the team is now better off with a stable halfback.
The Dragons had tried three other halfbacks before Marshall's arrival five weeks ago.
"Definitely, it does help. It's just going to take time," he said. "The more we train together, the more we play, we're gonna become a lot better. It's finally good to have a half out there now we can work, two or three people were in and out and it's very hard to get that combination.
"With Benji there, there's that extra threat, and hopefully it gives me a bit more space. Things haven't changed too much. Coach gives us a game plan to stick to and we just listen to that, what he believes is best for game day. We just go out there and do our job."