2016 a distant memory for attack-minded Dragons

They were written off by most people before a ball had even been kicked, but the Dragons showed pre-season form counts for little with a thumping 42-10 win over the Panthers at UOW Jubilee Oval on Saturday afternoon.

‌The Dragons struggled for continuity in 2016, finishing the regular season as the second-worst attacking side with just 341 points from 24 rounds. 

But there were no signs of that team on Saturday afternoon, with the Red V producing a brand of footy that no one thought they were capable of. 

No one, except the Dragons and their head coach Paul McGregor. 

"I don't really want to talk about last year, to be honest. I'm just really happy with… the boys listen well, they train hard and they've got the rewards. They're playing a style that they like because they can play whatever is in front of them," he said. 

"I've got a lot of confidence in our playing group, and I'd just like them to value themselves very highly because not many people are out there, and we're enjoying that. 

"It's certainly encouraging. The boys have worked very hard over the last 16 weeks. A lot of the blokes have been kicked during that period so it's good to see them pull together and play like they trained. 

"They've been going really well for a number of weeks now so it's good to see them go out and play like that. We've been working on playing each play instead of playing the set out. We were very rigid last year, and I think the boys went out there and had real intent."

Having been written off after they were thrashed by the Rabbitohs in the Charity Shield, McGregor said the 32-10 loss last month was the wake-up call his side needed heading into the season-opener. 

"We sort of needed a boot up the backside after the Charity Shield. I think that was a blessing," he said.

"We didn't game-plan for it and we went into it under some fatigue from our training, so we weren't too worried about it. We created some things that day that we saw and we wanted to work on a bit harder over the weeks before we played. 

"The scoreline tonight, obviously I didn't predict that, but we certainly knew we'd be up for a fight against a team that everyone thought were favourites to win the comp."

It was a night to remember for Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop, with the Englishman equalling the club record of 22 points in a game with two tries and seven goals.

Much of the talk in the pre-season centred on who would partner him in the halves to replace the injured Drew Hutchison, and veteran No.7 Josh McCrone showed enough to suggest why he had been favoured ahead of rookie Jai Field. 

"It was obviously great to score some points tonight," he said after the game. 

"We never doubted each other, that's the biggest thing. We supported each other and we knew that after all the hard work that we'd put in, we just had to believe in everything we'd been practising at training throughout the pre-season.

"Josh has been around for a while now and he's played a lot of games so he's well-experienced. Early on in that game he took control with his kicking game and I just played off the back of that."