Origin snub to fire up Aitken in duel with Mitchell
Jack de Belin believes St George Illawarra team-mate Euan Aitken will be out to prove a point against NSW centre Latrell Mitchell as the Dragons prepare to have their premiership credentials tested in Sunday's heavyweight clash with Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium.
After being on the top rung of the Telstra Premiership ladder for all but one week of 2018, the next two matches against the Roosters and Warriors are set to have a significant influence on their finishing position.
The Roosters are two points behind joint leaders Melbourne, St George Illawarra and South Sydney in fourth position and are starting to look like the team that was favoured to win the premiership before the start of the season. The Dragons, on the other hand, faltered during the State of Origin period are seeking to return to top form.
However, de Belin said he and St George Illawarra's four other Origin stars had now put the series behind them and were focused on helping the Dragons fulfill the pre-season goal of a top-four finish.
"Now our full squad is back together we can definitely be held accountable," de Belin said in reference to back-to-back losses to the Storm and Wests Tigers before last weekend's 24-10 defeat of North Queensland in Townsville.
"I'm not going to lie to you, it's been pretty hard. You feel you've reached the top of the mountain and what's there to do now. But it takes a week or two and you're back and want to do something special with the Dragons.
"We were back on the right path against the Cowboys and against the Roosters is going to be pretty tough. They're a quality side and I think they're starting to gel. I think coming into the finals they're going to be one of the teams to beat."
After beating out Aitken for a Blues jersey, Mitchell has returned to the Roosters full of confidence and his 24-point haul in last Sunday's 56-24 demolition of Manly was the most for the club since Mike Eden scored 26 points in round 21 of the 1983 competition.
"I suppose Euie will definitely be taking it personally," de Belin said. "Strength-wise, Euie is as strong as they come. He's built low to the ground and stocky, while Latrell is a big boy. You could put him in front row and he wouldn't look out of place.
"It came down to those two for the Origin centre spot and Latrell won out and did a fantastic job. I suppose Euie is going to have a point to prove, and he'll play well."
While the Dragons players haven't spoken about winning the premiership, de Belin said they had set a goal at the start of the season to finish in the top four.
After the Roosters, St George Illawarra play the Warriors at WIN Stadium and finish the season with four matches against teams outside the top eight in Parramatta, Wests Tigers, Canterbury and Newcastle.
"We set a goal at the start of the year to be top four and we're sitting in a good position at the moment so our destiny is in our own hands, I suppose," de Belin said.
"Last year we were in a good position and didn't make the finals, but this year we can do a lot better. We've learned from past mistakes."