Dragons respect Soward: Beale
Jamie Soward's former Dragons teammates are glad to see him playing well, and wish him all the best, but nonetheless be will out to rain on his and the Panthers' parade as they face off for the first time on Saturday.
Since joining Penrith after a somewhat acrimonious split with the Dragons last year, Soward has led the men from the foot of the mountains to the top of the NRL ladder for the first time since 2004 with four wins on the trot.
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The Dragons meanwhile have just a solitary win over lowly Cronulla for their efforts over the past six weeks, and last month sacked coach Steve Price, the man who dumped Soward to reserve grade midway through 2013 before showing the former NSW five-eighth the door.
Dragons centre Gerard Beale admitted Soward, who was a key member in winning the joint-venture's first premiership in 2010, is playing like he has a point to prove, and will take some stopping if the red and white are to bag their first win over the Panthers in three years.
"He's certainly on fire isn’t he? He's playing good footy and the main thing is he looks like he's enjoying his footy," said Beale, whose time alongside Soward in the Red V was limited to six games due to a season-ending ACL injury last year.
"It's good to see him happy and playing well but hopefully this week we can dampen his spirits a bit. It's going to be a good challenge and he's certainly got the Panthers on fire."
"We've got a job to do on him, but it's a job we've got to do on the Panthers, not just Jamie Soward. I guess the boys that really do know him will be looking forward to playing against him but for most of us though we'll be going out there and getting the job done."
Beale will have his hands full out on the Dragons' left edge, where he will line up on in-form Panthers centre Dean Whare, whose combination with veteran winger David Simmons has netted 10 tries and 11 line breaks in the nine games the pair have played together this year.
The last time Beale and Whare were together on the pitch was the Kiwis' 30-18 loss in the Trans-Tasman Test six weeks ago, when Whare was particularly impressive in keeping Kangaroos superstar Greg Inglis under wraps, repeatedly cutting down his time and space and bundling him into touch on one occasion. Beale said he was looking forward to Saturday's showdown with his Kiwi teammate.
"I haven't come up against him, I've only played with him, so it'll be an interesting little battle for us, especially as he's playing very well out there," said Beale.
"He is in good form and he's very tough in defence. He's very strong, and I saw with the Kiwis how professional he is, how hard he works at training and how talented he is, so it's going to be tough."
"I'll have to be at the top of my game when we run out, it'll be a good little battle personally and I'm looking forward to him."