Ironclad Dragons turn afterburners on
Coincidence or not, it is quite apt that the Dragons will decorate their jerseys with comic book superhero Iron Man this weekend against the Sydney Roosters.
The Dragons were staring at the stark reality of being one of the season's real strugglers when they fell to their seventh loss from eight games midway through the year, including a 34-14 thrashing to this weekend's opponents on ANZAC Day, but the mettle they have shown in their marvelled comeback under interim coach Paul 'Mary' McGregor has proven there is still life in the machine yet.
Much like Iron Man's approach to fighting crime, the Dragons have thrust themselves into finals calculation with a simple yet smarter approach towards their football.
"I think everyone just knows their role now. A lot of confidence was lacking before and I think Mary put everyone aside and told everyone what they needed to do and what they had to work on and it wasn't all good to hear either," Dragons lock Jack de Belin tells NRL.com.
"He told some harsh truths which probably didn't want to be heard but I think from then everyone has jumped on board and totally believed in what Mary is doing, and as you can see the results are showing and we are improving every week.
"A lot of things already in place were pretty good but then a lot of things obviously had to be changed so our training has definitely been simplified and there's a lot more core, basic drills and simple things to get our minds switched on.
"Mary holds us to high standards to so if we drop a ball at training we have to go down and do push-ups as a whole team, so just little things like that are helping."
While the Dragons' season has been on a rocky flight path since the start of the year, de Belin admits the team's attitude wasn't up to scratch earlier in the campaign.
"We were just playing to the level of what our opposition were giving us or even at times we weren't even playing to their standards," de Belin says.
"Now we're turning up and know what needs to be done. We're getting through our sets and we're playing as one team and on the weekend [against the Tigers] we kept it moving forward and we played well again. So hopefully coming into the Roosters on Saturday, they are the reigning premiers, and they're going to be ready for it."
While their forward pack, including de Belin, has come under scrutiny throughout the season the Dragons are now making the most of what they have in their stocks, and after last week's victory over the Tigers a win against the Roosters could skyrocket them up to as high as seventh on the ladder.
"I think over the last couple of months we have definitely changed that opinion and coming into this weekend we have definitely improved out of sight in comparison to the first time we played them," de Belin said.
"It is pretty obvious that we aren't a huge pack but the positive there is that we are more mobile and agile then other forward packs. We have to keep the ball moving around and play to our strengths, which is getting the other team moving a lot.
"We can't just roll the sleeves up and try to bash our way through. We have to play smart but in saying that we won't take a backward step."
And if all else fails, at least de Belin has a favourable opinion on who would win between Iron Man and Captain America (the Roosters' jersey representative) in a fight.
"Of course Iron Man would win. He has a better costume," de Belin said.
If only it were that easy.