Experience the key for Dragons

There was a time, not so long ago, when Ben Hornby would have been happy to play just five games in the famous Red V jersey.<br><br>“I remember playing my very first game and at that stage I didn’t know if I would even get to three or four,” the Dragons captain laughs.<br><br>“I was just thrilled to be playing first grade so anything else was a bonus.”<br><br>Nine years on and Hornby has not only exceeded those mild ambitions, this weekend he will become the first player since St George and Illawarra merged in 1999 to play 200 games for the club.<br><br>“It’s something I’m pretty proud of,” he told NRL.com ahead of Sunday’s highly-anticipated semi-final clash with Parramatta at WIN Jubilee Oval.<br><br>“I quite like reaching the milestones and this is one I’ve had my eye on for quite some time.<br><br>“Obviously the fact that it’s a semi-final sort of adds to everything as well.<br><br>“It’s a huge game for us but I’m sure it will be a special day regardless.”<br><br>It’s been quite an evolution for Hornby, who not only finds himself captaining the club this season under new coach Wayne Bennett but finally handed the playmaking duties on an official full-time basis.<br><br>The move from fullback isn’t that great a surprise – after all he has spent more time in the halves in recent years than his preferred No.1 jersey – but sticking to the one role has certainly helped spark the Dragons into life.<br><br>“It’s different but I’m very comfortable there now,” he said.<br><br>“The last few years I’ve been mainly in the halves anyway so it’s not like I’ve just been thrown in the deep end.<br><br>“I enjoy playing there.<br><br>“But yeah, when I started I thought I’d play fullback my whole career.<br><br>“I’d never really thought about playing in the halves until Mathew Head went down injured one day and I filled the void.<br><br>“It all went from there.<br><br>“But I think the big thing for me this year is being able to lead the boys as captain as well.<br><br>“That’s pretty special.”<br><br>Hornby, of course, doesn’t have an easy task in the coming weeks.<br><br>The Dragons may have stormed to the minor premiership and back into form with their 37-0 thrashing of Parramatta last Friday night but the club has a poor record of capitalising on their opportunities in big games.<br><br>They famously lost the 1999 grand final to Melbourne after leading 14-0 at half-time and crashed out of the 2005 finals series against eventual premiers Wests Tigers having finished equal first on the ladder.<br><br>But Hornby said the Dragons couldn’t afford to worry about the past.<br><br>“It’s not something we’ve spoken about,” he said.<br><br>“We’re not really thinking about that sort of thing too much.<br><br>“We had a good win last week against Parramatta and all that matters at the moment is doing it again on Sunday.”<br><br>Asked how important the Dragons’ return to form last week had been following three consecutive losses, Hornby said “It gave us a lot of confidence.<br><br>“We’d come off a couple of bad weeks and I think we needed a big result like that.<br><br>“But we know Parra will be a different side this week.<br><br>“The important thing for us is to just stick to what we’re good at and replicate what we did last week – completing our sets and playing high-percentage football.”<br><br><b>Late news:</b><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Dragons prop Justin Poore is in doubt after missing training yesterday with a calf injury while Parramatta’s Krisnan Inu is battling a hamstring strain;<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Newcastle hooker Isaac De Gois will undergo a fitness test today on his knee injury ahead of tomorrow night’s clash with the Bulldogs; and<br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Gold Coast pair Mat Rogers and Brett Delaney are also in doubt with hamstring strains ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Brisbane.<br>