St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor said New South Wales State of Origin representative Tyson Frizell was one of very few Dragons who could hold their head up high in the aftermath of their 32-12 loss to the Titans on Friday night.
Frizell managed to punch out 50 minutes for the Dragons (96 metres and 16 tackles), just 48 hours after his starring role in NSW's Origin III win over the Maroons.
McGregor said it's now up to the 24-year-old to establish himself as a leader of the Dragons' pack and challenged Frizell's teammates to put in bigger and better performances.
"Tyson's certainly a player who can sit in that shed and be proud. The challenge is for the rest of them to put in some efforts like he is," McGregor said.
"It's massive for a young man to go out in a big arena on Wednesday night with all the emotion behind it, and back it up two days later. It will help him a lot, Tyson will only go from strength to strength now.
"That experience there and the knowledge he has gained in competing at that representative level is good for him," McGregor added.
"I class Origin as probably the toughest footy you can play as a league player. For him to go out there and play so well in that arena definitely gives him the confidence to come back and be a senior player."
The Dragons conceded 30-plus points in their second-straight Telstra Premiership game and while McGregor alluded to team changes, he said he was restricted by second-tier salary cap constraints.
McGregor has called upon 26 players this year and that's without being able to select the injured Dylan Farrell (back) and Mose Masoe (knee) for the entire season.
Club captain Ben Creagh (knee) has been out since Round 3 while crucial duo Josh Dugan and Benji Marshall have had rollarcoaster years in terms of games played.
"You always talk about changes but it's very hard when you have a salary cap and a second-tier cap as well. A lot of things come into play there so we just have to sit back and have a look," McGregor said when assessing the state of his current 17.
"To say I'm happy with what happened [against the Titans], no I'm not. But I'm guided a little bit by player depth and who's available.
"It's very hard now to look from outside, they'll just have to look from within and start challenging each other because lately it's not been acceptable."
On the Titans loss, team captain Gareth Widdop said David Mead's try just after half-time was the straw that broke the camel's back, with the Gold Coast earlier posting an 8-0 lead within the first eight minutes.
"For them to roll 100 metres and score another try off a kick was certainly disappointing," Widdop said.
"Off the back of that, we were on the back foot for the whole of the second half and they carved us up."