An improved defensive structure has given centre Euan Aitken confidence the Dragons will be able to shut down Melbourne speedster Josh Addo-Carr in Sunday’s heavyweight clash at Jubilee Oval.
With Aitken and Addo-Carr being touted for NSW selection, the match between the Telstra Premiership leaders and last year’s premiers is likely to have a bearing on the pair’s Holden State of Origin prospects.
After scoring 19 tries in his first season with the Storm, Addo-Carr is again up near the top of the NRL’s leading try scorer list with eight in as many games, including three doubles.
If Aitken and right side wing partner Jason Nightingale can keep Addo-Carr tryless, it will boost the St George Illawarra centre’s chances of a Blues call-up. But if the Melbourne speedster continues his recent try-scoring feats then NSW coach Brad Fittler may look elsewhere.
"I don’t really look at who I am playing against," Aitken said. "I think I have got to put my best foot forward and back myself to verse the best people in the world in different positions.
"Our right edge has been defending well lately, we have got systems there and we have just got to keep playing the way we, and are our best defence will be there on Sunday."
Dragons v Storm - Round 9
St George Illawarra, Melbourne, Wests Tigers, and Sydney Roosters have each conceded 18 tries this season, but the Dragons have the best for-and-against as they have scored 230 points compared to 212 by Storm.
Of the tries conceded by the Dragons, 11 were on the right side where Aitken and Nightingale defend outside halfback Ben Hunt and second-rower Tyson Frizell.
In comparison, Storm’s tries are fairly evenly spread, including 14 of their 33 on their left side.
Aitken said changes to the team’s defensive structure during the off-season had given the players confidence in their ability to hold out opposition teams and their attack had improved with the addition of Hunt.
"We have got consistency all across the park," he said. "We are scoring tries on the left, the right and in the middle, our defence is 10 times better than it was last year.
"We have got a different system in place that works better for us and obviously, the balance of the two halves, Ben Hunt and Gareth Widdop.
"When you have got world-class halves like that, and with a great forward pack too, it makes the jobs of the outside backs easier."
The Scotland international, who helped choose the design for the Dragons’ indigenous jersey to be worn against South Sydney in round 10, said Melbourne were still the benchmark for other clubs.
While none of the Dragons’ indigenous players, Josh Kerr, Jai Field and Tristan Sailor, are in the NRL side, they will be represented with three white dots on the jersey.
"The Aboriginal community is a massive part of the NRL and rugby league,” Aitken said. “They are the first people that lived here and we have to respect that, it is their land as well so it means a lot to be able to play in honour of them."