Embarrassing loss turned Manly's season
Manly's meek capitulation to South Sydney in Round 2 has proven the catalyst for the club's three-game winning streak that has rocketed the Sea Eagles up the Telstra Premiership ladder.
After racing in three tries in the opening 12 minutes against the Rabbitohs at Lottoland, the Sea Eagles conceded an embarrassing six tries in just 60 minutes to by humbled 38-18 on their home turf.
It wasn't good enough, and the team knew it.
"I think it was [the wake-up call] after that game, everyone was very disappointed," fullback Tom Trbojevic said.
"We thought we started well enough to win that game, we kind of capitulated and that is something we obviously don't want to do and we talked about it during the week and I think that attitude we changed has been massive for us the last couple of weeks.
"All pre-season has been set up on defence, obviously Souths was one to forget. If we can keep defending well, we'll be likely to win [against the Dragons]."
Since that result, the Sea Eagles have conceded just 20 points in three weeks, including holding the Cowboys to eight points in Townsville and the Bulldogs to zero in a 36-0 shutout.
"The last three weeks our attitude has been real good, we've wanted to show energy, we've talked about things and we've gone on the field and done it.
"That is a massive thing compared to the first two weeks, we still have a long, long way to go."
While the Sea Eagles defence has improved drastically from the opening two rounds, there is no question the stability of Manly's spine is already hitting pay dirt.
From Hasler and Shearer to Toovey and Ridge, Orford and Stewart, Manly have been well served with their halfback-fullback combination and they have another pair who could take the club forward into an exciting future.
Already Daly Cherry-Evans and Trbojevic are combining to scorch highlight reels to start the 2017 Telstra Premiership season.
But Trbojevic was quick to baulk at the comparisons to some of the club's best.
"We have been working on that combination all off season," he said.
"Obviously the players you mentioned (Stewart and Orford) have obviously done a lot more than myself and are one of the best partnerships for this club.
"He (Cherry-Evans) often cops a lot of stick, but he handles it well, and the way he's been playing the last couple of weeks is unfair to give him any stick. He's been playing unreal and leading the team around and he is a big factor in that.
"I think everyone likes to push up as a team and be there and if there is an opportunity to offload, someone has to be there, because that is obviously a good play.
"It's all about recognises who is running the ball and if they have an offload you have to be there pushing and expecting the ball."