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Standout representative contributors St George Illawarra won’t be using the plethora of excuses available to them when they travel to North Queensland this weekend, hunting for another victory and outright first place on the NRL ladder.<br><br>With five players suiting up for New South Wales Country Origin (and two others ruled out of the side through injury), plus two others playing for New Zealand and another part of the Kangaroos’ squad, the Dragons could be forgiven for crying foul – but hooker Dean Young says his side are primed to continue their good form.<br><br>With Justin Poore, Michael Weyman, Beau Scott, Ben Creagh, Jamie Soward, Darius Boyd, Jeremy Smith and Jason Nightingale all involved in representative football and Ben Hornby and Matt Cooper in doubt for Saturday after being ruled out of the Country team, Dragons training was somewhat quieter yesterday. <br><br>With coach Wayne Bennett having no idea how his stars will pull through the Friday night rep games, the Dragons will be taking plenty of extras to Townsville – perhaps more than 10 more – when they leave on Thursday night. Those playing in Orange for City-Country will be catching a chartered flight for the 1,500-kilometre journey north, hoping to play twice in 24 hours.<br><br>“It’s true we are going to be a bit light on for the trip to Townsville but I’m sure that whoever gets a run, they’ll be out to prove they can do the job,” Young tells<br><br>“Last week’s win was very pleasing and gave us more confidence so now we will just rest up a bit for a few days, then get prepared for a strong Cowboys outfit.<br><br>“Wayne (Bennett) has had to deal with this sort of thing a lot with the Broncos in the past so he knows what he is doing and while we haven’t had many guys in the rep sides the past few years it looks like it might be different this year. <br><br>“It’s another tough challenge for us but we have plenty of good players playing for the Shellharbour Dragons who are more than capable and had the benefit of the same tough pre-season we had. They have been playing pretty well in that competition so if they get their chance they’ll take it.”<br><br>St George Illawarra sit equal first on the competition ladder, second to the Bulldogs on percentages, but the ’Dogs have a bye this week and while that guarantees them two competition points, their differential will not improve. If the Dragons can win by 13 or more over the Cowboys, they are likely to end the weekend as the NRL’s number one side (provided Brisbane doesn’t absolutely destroy Manly or the Titans punish the Knights by large margins).<br><br>While the Cowboys are struggling a little in 11th and have Johnathan Thurston (Australia) and Luke O’Donnell (City Origin) backing up, they have the benefit of preparing for the match at home while the Dragons train with a skeleton squad. Having been in a really physical clash with the Warriors, the likes of Wendell Sailor (quad) and Jarrod Saffy (sternum) are others on limited training. In fact Brett Morris was the only back in the Dragons’ squad available to run early this week.<br><br>“Recovery had only about eight of us around, it was very quiet,” Young admits. “I think Wayne will have a look at who pulls up well out of the rep games before deciding who we are going to run with, so there won’t be any finalisation on the side until Saturday night. <br><br>“Whoever comes in will be more than capable of slotting in and continuing our tough footy. We are probably going to have to take up 15 extra players, so there will be plenty of guys making the trip that won’t play. <br><br>“Last week was a really tough game, the toughest of the year in terms of how physical it was, so we can take plenty from it,” Young adds. <br><br>“The Warriors have some ‘big boppers’, so it was a really enjoyable win. Someone wrote in the papers that it wasn’t our best performance of the year but I disagree. <br><br>“We came out flat but we hung in there and it was the best our attack has looked in my opinion. Full credit to the Warriors, because they defended really well, and we couldn’t get across the line. But we were grinding and fought back into the game. We looked like we were gone again but managed to stick solid and get the result.<br><br>“In years past we might have lost that game.”<br><br>While former New South Wales Origin coach Phil Gould has gone on record saying Young would be his choice for New South Wales hooker, the man himself is content to just be playing consistent NRL football. <br>“I was just happy to play 22 games last year after the injury problems I’d had,” he admits. <br><br>“This year I’m playing majority of the time at hooker and had my first full pre-season there and I’m starting to really enjoy it. With Michael Ennis and Robbie Farah leading the way at hooker there is no disappointment missing out to those guys. I can just keep improving in the position and one day it (rep honours) might come.”<br><br>
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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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