Dragons vow to get back to basics
Jack de Belin concedes if the Dragons want to play finals footy they must get back to the basics that worked so well for them at the start of the year.
St George Illawarra sat in third spot on the Telstra Premiership ladder after 13 rounds but have managed just one win since to slide down to eighth with the Penrith Panthers snapping at their heels heading into the final seven games of the season.
The power game that brought them so much joy in the first three months of the season has been replaced by an east-to-west style that has seen their title aspirations go south ever since.
There were positive signs in their golden point loss to the Raiders last week and de Belin wants to see his side build on that leading into Sunday's clash with the Sea Eagles.
"We definitely know we can, it's more just getting back to basics – our key principles and the fundamentals that were working for us," the Dragons lock said.
"I suppose we've kind of gone away from that a little bit and got away from our team-first actions so we're playing a little bit too individualised at the moment.
"[It's] the little things that don't require any talent like kick-chase, kick-pressure, working hard on your inside and just little things like supporting your mate. When we're playing well, we're doing those little things and not just worrying about our carries."
The Dragons produced their best performance of the season when they thrashed Manly 35-10 at Lottoland in Round 6 with Paul Vaughan (216 metres and two offloads) and de Belin (155 metres and a try) laying the platform for halves Gareth Widdop (two tries) and Josh McCrone (four assists) to tear the Sea Eagles to shreds.
Vaughan and Tim Lafai set the tone early with a flurry of offloads, and while it worked for them on that occasion, de Belin warned that it was perilous to head into Sunday's clash with a similar mindset.
"We haven't watched the video but looking back on that performance, that was probably one of our best performances of the year," he said.
"We kind of blew them out of the park and everyone was probably saying that Manly didn't play well, but at the same time, we played outstanding. I suppose a few clips will be shown of some of the performances and individual things that we did well so we'll be looking to build on that.
"Looking back on it, I suppose we did have a lot of offloads and second-phase play. You can't go into the game with a mindset of offloading and passing first because if you do, it doesn't tend to work out so well; they'll come up if the opportunity is there."
It's been a big few weeks for de Belin who thought he was going to make his State of Origin debut in the series decider given the injuries to fellow forwards Boyd Cordner and Tyson Frizell but instead watched on as the Blues were soundly defeated at Suncorp Stadium.
The 26-year-old workhorse was then sent back to the bench for the Raiders game, although Russell Packer's early injury meant he played 75 minutes in which he made 197 metres and 43 tackles.
The lock forward said he completely understood coach Paul McGregor's decision to start him on the bench and added he'd like to improve on a few things in his game after a self-confessed flat line in form.
"I hadn't been there for a couple of weeks so I suppose I'd been out of the loop and hadn't done any training so it was fair enough," he said of his benching.
"Mary pretty much said to me that we're going to start you off the bench and roll with three big guys this week but Russell came off pretty early so it didn't even feel like I'd come off the bench.
"It (my form) has been pretty steady, in all honesty. If anything, I'm probably a bit disappointed that I haven't really continually built on it. I've kind of plateaued a little bit but I'm definitely looking for a strong backend to the year."