Super Mann set to keep the No.7 jersey
Dragons coach Paul McGregor has all but confirmed Kurt Mann will keep the No.7 jersey for at least another week after the utility led his side to a comfortable 42-16 win over the Titans to temporarily jump back into the top eight.
Veteran Josh McCrone has been a solid contributor at halfback in 2017 but there was no denying a marked improvement with Mann's speed giving St George Illawarra's attack a spark that has been missing in recent weeks.
The 24-year-old was a class above on Saturday afternoon, breaking the line early and forcing a line dropout before he backed up Josh Dugan to open the scoring while he also crossed later in the game to ice the crucial win.
McGregor spoke highly of Mann's speed, aggression and resilience, and said the change came about due to a groin injury that has plagued McCrone for the past six weeks.
"He's been carrying an injury for probably a month-and-a-half," he said.
"He's had groin trouble on both sides and it got to a stage where he couldn't really run early in the week, it's affected his [ability to play] 80 minutes so he couldn't get through a solid 80 minutes. The performance staff thought it was a good idea for him not to play if he didn't have to. We had Kurt there - Josh was available - so we made the change."
The late switch proved to be a masterstroke with Mann making the most of just his second career start at halfback. Ironically, the last time he wore the No.7 jersey was against the Titans earlier in the year when he scored the Red V's sole try in a 20-10 loss.
Halves partner Gareth Widdop was full of praise for his versatile teammate and predicted an even more polished performance next week as their combination blossoms.
"Kurt's been doing a fair bit there throughout the year. We've got a pretty simple game plan that hasn't changed all year. I thought he did that really well today," the Englishman said.
"He's been in and out of positions all year, but every time he's put a jersey on he's gone out there and tried his hardest and today he was good, pretty composed and he's dangerous with the ball as you can see from today. We'll be better for the run next week."
Saturday's win snapped a worrying losing streak that saw the Dragons drop out of the top eight following losses to the Knights and Rabbitohs.
Despite the tough run, Widdop said he never doubted his side's ability, but stressed Saturday's performance would count for nothing if they didn't back it up next week against the Broncos.
"You've got to let things like that go; you can't drag that around with you. At the end of the day's it's gone and we knew we had to move on," he said of their recent losses.
"We've got four big games coming up and this was the first one at home. I've been confident of the boys all year in what we're about and what we can do and today for a long period we showed that. It's about doing that next week."