Nightingale not buying ref excuse

Jason Nightingale admits he was yet to watch the post-match press conference that landed coach Paul McGregor with a $10,000 fine during the week, but insists the match officials were not to blame.

St George Illawarra face a struggling Rabbitohs outfit at the SCG on Friday night reeling from their seven-point loss to Newcastle last Sunday.

The Dragons were their own worst enemies, completing at 62 per cent and not capitalising on a 7-3 line-break advantage. 

"The fact that refs got involved in games that we were expected to win is an excuse because refs shouldn't become part of whether we win or lose," Nightingale said. 

"The way we played footy the week earlier [against Manly], they wouldn't come into it and we wouldn't be talking about these sorts of things."

Such is the closeness of the Telstra Premiership ladder, a side heavily favoured to feature in the finals can easily be knocked off their perch – albeit to the bottom-placed Knights outfit. 

"We expected to win and it was a wake-up call the first time we played them so I think that's the biggest thing, you have to look at your own performance," Nightingale said. 

"Obviously we're disappointed and it was a sombre especially when you review games like that, the quicker you do move on and get back on the wagon and create the optimism.

"I think with Souths on Friday night it's a positive with a short turnaround you don't have a lot of time to dwell on what happened on the weekend."

 

With the Panthers equal on 26 competition points, should the Dragons suffer another upset loss, they could well find themselves outside the top eight by the end of the round.

The most experienced player in the Dragons line-up, Nightingale was honest about the situation. 

"Any loss puts a dent in our finals hopes, we're still looking finals bound but that doesn't mean anything," he said.

"It's hard not to [look at the ladder] but it's about playing consistently too. You've got to play every game with the right energy or you're going to lose regardless of where they are on the ladder. 

"We had a lot of opportunities that we didn't take. Every side has the battle with consistency over a 26-week competition; it's definitely a mindset thing."

McGregor's men have improved out of sight in attack after criticism last season on the back of second phase play particularly from their big men.

The inclusion of Matt Dufty in recent weeks has also added another element in attack.

"It's about playing the high risk footy but making the judgements on whether to throw or not to throw that is the difference between us playing well and playing poorly," Nightingale said.

"I think the mix of our attack is really good but it's just about capitalising those breaks we made."