Hat-trick hero Nightingale gets better with age
St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale has been praised by his coach as like a fine wine that keeps getting better with age following his third hat-trick of 2017 but the winger has shrugged off the comparison, saying he is lucky to be playing outside some gifted playmakers that make his job easier.
Remarkably, Nightingale's nine tries this year mean he hasn't crossed the stripe once this year outside his three hat-tricks (the others were against Wests Tigers in Round 5 and Melbourne in Round 9).
Even more bizarrely, had his team not pulled off a remarkable second-half fightback two of those three hat-tricks would have come in losing efforts following a high-scoring 34-22 loss to the Storm.
Speaking after the game, Nightingale said he was happy to bring up his 100 NRL try milestone at his favourite rugby league ground in Kogarah.
"I love playing [at UOW Jubilee Oval], it's my favourite ground to play rugby league at and a lot of friends and family in the crowd and fans that have been part of my journey for a long time so I'm very excited to bring it up here at home and get a win along with it as well," he said.
"I scored [a hat-trick] earlier this year against Melbourne [in a loss]; little individual highlights like hat-tricks don't feel like anything if you go on to lose the game so very excited to play the way we did in the second half and get that first half behind us because there were some nervous moments in the sheds at half-time."
Of his tendency to score tries in bunches, he said the games where the Dragons' left-edge attack clicks can allow him to take advantage of the momentum created.
"It's strange, when we're going on the left edge we seem to exploit teams really well. [Left-edge back-rower] Joel [Thompson] got across the line too.
"Gareth [Widdop] being back has really helped open things up so very excited to be on the end of [Tim] Lafai and 'Gaz' (Widdop) and their try-assisting ability."
McGregor had plenty of praise for the milestone man after the game.
"He's been outstanding, like a bottle of red wine, he keeps getting better with age," McGregor said.
"He's always a guy that goes out there and plays to his potential. He's a big metre-eater at the back of the field, he knows how to get to the try-line and the boys really like his leadership. He's a pleasure to coach."
Nightingale laughed off the wine comparison but was pleased to be thought of as someone who consistently delivers his best.
"I pride myself on my consistency and I think that fluctuates with the way the team's going throughout the year, it's much easier when you've got a good bunch of guys going forward," he said.