Dragons embrace their hard truth
It's a simple equation with not such a straightforward answer but Dragons coach Paul McGregor is adamant his sick and sorry charges can rebound from their loss to the Broncos and push for a finals berth in the final fortnight of the regular season.
With Nene Macdonald and Hame Sele ruled out with injury and illness respectively, St George Illawarra had as many as nine players on Friday night playing through the effects of a flu that ravaged the squad in the 48 hours prior to kick-off.
After the game Tariq Sims spoke of teammate Jack de Belin "power spewing" before and during the game but at 20-12 with 23 minutes to play the Dragons were well and truly within striking distance of an upset, Corey Oates' spectacular four-pointer sealing Brisbane's 24-12 win.
If the Raiders can defeat the Panthers by at least 15 points on Sunday they will move past the Dragons into ninth spot on the ladder but McGregor remains confident that his side can get to 30 competition points and sneak into the top eight.
It would be fitting for a team that won six of its first seven games and have lost twice in golden point this year to feature in the finals and with nine days to prepare to play the Panthers McGregor believes their season is far from dead.
"We know what we need to do, we've just got to go out and do it," McGregor said after the 12-point defeat.
"Penrith are a quality team and Canterbury have obviously had a disappointing year but it's the last game of the year for them so they're going to get up.
"It's still up to us. We finish on 30 points, our for and against is good, we've just got to win.
"That's the truth of it.
"There are a few blokes there who are pretty ill. We lost Nene [Macdonald] yesterday at training, 'Friz' (Tyson Frizell) limped off training but played tonight so the nine-day turnaround is going to help that.
"Certainly the nine-day turn is going to help the guys that are crook in there at the moment."
McGregor expects to have winger Nene Macdonald back fit for selection for the Penrith game but confirmed that centre Euan Aitken would be headed for surgery after dislocating his shoulder in his comeback in the final play of the game.
The Dragons were rocked by two errors from Josh Dugan at both ends of the field inside the first 11 minutes and although they hit the front when Paul Vaughan scored in the 16th minute, the relentless Broncos forwards had their tails up.
"I thought we were actually winning the ruck to be honest but like coach spoke about that 10-point turn and a couple of errors gave them the opportunity and they jumped on the back of that," said hooker Cameron McInnes.
"Their line speed improved and we were making it hard on ourselves coming out of our own end all night.
"It's hard to win games against a good side like that when you're coming out of your end and you're getting fatigued."