Watercooler: Dragons kill the 'chokers' tag

<p>From the moment the full-time siren sounded at ANZ Stadium on Sunday night, the Dragons insisted that the criticisms that had come their way in 2010 had been little more than water off a duck’s back. </p><p>“It didn’t bother us,” they said. But amid all the emotion of a grand final win, it can be difficult to hide your true feelings and when Ben Hornby yelled that the Dragons’ maiden premiership was ‘for all the true believers’ during his post-match victory speech, you knew that the denials were simply band-aids over open wounds. </p><p>Tired of being branded chokers after so many close calls over the years, this win was as much about proving the doubters wrong as it was putting the final touch on two remarkable seasons. </p><p>“I think we probably knew in the back of our minds what was being said in the media – the ‘chokers’ tag and everything else that went along with it,” back-rower Ben Creagh admitted to NRL.com afterwards. </p><p>“But we knew … it kind of proved to be motivation. We shut a lot of people up.” </p><p><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=910&amp;fixtureid=50020103001&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=1&amp;time=415" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Mark Gasnier's opening try</a> </p><p><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=910&amp;fixtureid=50020103001&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=1400" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Dean Young's try</a> </p><p>Asked how frustrating those criticisms were, Creagh said: “It was funny at times. “I think we played consistently all season and we were minor premiers, then people start calling us chokers in the last four rounds of the season. </p><p>“We were having tight losses to good footy sides who were desperate to make the finals. “It was a little bit amusing at times but it’s just good to lose that tag now.” </p><p>There is no doubt, however, that the Dragons had felt the burden of the 31-year wait since one half of the merged club – St George – last hoisted the trophy in 1979. </p><p>All of the close calls – a one-point grand final loss in 1985, four losses in the ’90s including the unthinkable capitulation against Melbourne in 1999 – had only added to the stigma. </p><p>So while five-eighth Jamie Soward tried to laugh off suggestions that this was about throwing it back in the face of the doubters – insisting “I’m not like that at all” – two-try hero Jason Nightingale admitted that he had been more than a little fired up ahead of his side’s memorable 32-8 win over the Roosters. </p><p>“I just thought some of the labels that were put on us were fairly ridiculous,” he said. “You can’t blame 30 years of under-achievement on people that have been together for a season-and-a-half. </p><p>“So yeah, I think that was obviously a factor. </p><p>“It was just to put pressure on us… but it makes you stronger.” </p><p><a href="http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=910&amp;fixtureid=50020103001&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=346" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Jason Nightingale's first try</a> </p><p><a href="%20http://www.nrl.com/telstrapremiership/gameanalyservideo/tabid/10910/default.aspx?seasonid=240&amp;roundid=910&amp;fixtureid=50020103001&amp;videoquality=1&amp;type=try&amp;period=2&amp;time=1163%20" target="_blank">CLICK HERE to see Jason Nightingale's second try</a> </p><p>Nightingale said that although the players had tried their best to steer clear of critical media, it had certainly been mentioned from time to time. </p><p>“We just had a bit of a laugh at it,” he said. “We know how ridiculous it is to call a team that has been together for two years chokers. </p><p>“But we didn’t say ‘Stuff you, we’re going to win’. We said ‘We’re going to win because after two years of hard work we’re not going to look back now’. </p><p>“There is a lot of satisfaction. There is a bit more than satisfaction… the tradition that we have here, and the fact that the fans haven’t had a grand final win for 30-odd years – so that aspect comes into it. </p><p>“The emotions that come into it are pretty surreal.” </p><p>Departing forward Jarrod Saffy, playing his final game of rugby league before he joins new Super 15 rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels next season, said that the tears shed by so many Dragons players as they celebrated in the minutes after the siren sounded were the release of so many years of frustration. </p><p>“We’ve been bagged for the last few years,” he said. “I guess with the way we finished last year too, it probably added to the tag they gave us, so we knew the only way we could change that was to win a premiership. </p><p>“It certainly motivated us and helped us along the way. </p><p>“A lot of critics called us chokers and we really copped a lot, so just to know that we got there and got through it is unreal. </p><p>“I know that I got a bit emotional out there on the field but it is such an amazing feeling.”</p>