Aitken out to prove doubters wrong
Recently re-signed Dragons centre Euan Aitken is confident in the side's ability to match it with a free-flowing Panthers outfit when both sides clash in their season opener at UOW Jubilee Oval on Saturday night.
A late Josh Dugan try secured a 14-12 victory in a rather low-scoring affair between the two clubs at WIN Stadium last season, but with the emergence of Dally M Rookie of the Year Nathan Cleary, and return of Te Maire Martin for the Panthers, the contest shapes to be all about one style of play: attack.
It is the hot topic for the Red V, and after an error-riddled performance in the Charity Shield, Aitken says the players have come together in the final weeks of preparation to ensure they're ready to surprise everyone, and more importantly, Penrith.
"Our attack is coming along nicely now and the mood around the place is really good," Aitken said.
"We've taken a lot more onus on the right players and running the right lines so it makes the halves job easier.
"There's been a lot of pressure externally and worrying about our attack but we haven’t looked into it too much.
"We just want to worry about our club and what we can do internally."
A key in the resurgence of St George Illawarra's return to form will be Australian star Dugan, who could only manage two tries from 17 games last season.
"'Duges' (Dugan) is a real quality player and you've seen that the last few years with the Blues and what he can produce," Aitken said.
"I think he's had a really good pre-season, he's worked on his passing a lot more and I think we will see some good things from him this year."
The Scotland international was happy to sort his NRL future out before a ball was even kicked, with Aitken extending his career with the Red V for another three seasons a fortnight ago.
"It gives you confidence that you don't have to worry about that sort of thing (contract)," he said.
"It's a great feeling being here for three more years… it was an easy decision for me.
"I love the boys, the area and I can't wait keep building over the next few years."