The Run Home: Dragons

How they stand: St George Illawarra Dragons led the competition after 12 rounds of the Telstra Premiership but haven't won a game since, losing six in a row to slip out of the top eight. There is still time to save their season, but it is spiralling out of control fast. The Red V are in desperate need of some victories and confidence. But a cursory look at their draw should prove to inspire the most jaded of the Dragons faithful.

In their final seven games St George Illawarra only play three teams in the top eight, albeit all away from home. If they can snag a win against either the Storm or Warriors in New Zealand, or the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, they'll be in a really good place to make the finals with home games against the Knights, Panthers and Wests Tigers. They also have a decent schedule with several seven- and eight-day turnarounds between games.

Remaining fixtures: 
Round 20 v Storm at McLean Park, 5:30pm, Saturday, July 25.
Round 21 v Knights at Jubilee Oval, 2pm, Sunday August 2.
Round 22 v Warriors at Westpac Stadium, 3pm, Saturday, August 8.
Round 23 v Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, 7:45pm, Friday, August 14.
Round 24 v Panthers at WIN Stadium, 7:45pm, Thursday, August 20.
Round 25 v Titans at Cbus Super Stadium, 4pm, Sunday, August 30.
Round 26 v Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium, 5:30pm, Saturday, September 5.

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Key clash: The Dragons need to win the winnable games; the clashes with teams outside the top eight. But with competition for places so tight, their Round 23 clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium looms as a crucial contest. Points differential is likely to decide the final places on the ladder and the Dragons need to make sure they come out of this clash either with an upset win or a narrow defeat against the table-toping Broncos. If they can do that, they have a nice three-game run to the finals against teams that have struggled in 2015.

 

Key player: The Red V defensive wall was what got them to the top of the ladder earlier in the year, but the Dragons need to score points if they are to be a force at the backend of the year. While Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop have developed a decent combination, there can be no doubting how much influence Josh Dugan has on this side. They need their custodian firing at both ends of the field to resurrect their stuttering season. 

Injury report: The Dragons aren't going too bad on the injury front at this stage of the season. Dylan Farell (back) is expected back this week, youngster Yaw Kiti Glymin (hamstring) should be back in Round 21, Rory O'Brien (ankle) in Round 22, while Eto Nabuli (knee) is out indefinitely and Dan Hunt (knee) is out for the season.

NRL.com predicted finish: 8th. 

Get tickets for the NRL run home
Ladder Predictor: Who will make the top eight?