Graham insists panic button has not been pushed
Keep calm and carry on!
It was originally a motivational poster created by the British in World War II. Now it's English prop James Graham delivering the message to his St George Illawarra teammates as they desperately try to hang onto the top-four berth they have held all season.
After three defeats in their last four matches, the Dragons have a group of teams – Penrith, Cronulla and Brisbane – just two points behind them after Sunday’s 36-18 loss to Sydney Roosters.
However, as they prepare for Saturday’s match against the eighth-placed Warriors at WIN Stadium, Graham and fullback Matt Dufty insisted there was no panic within the camp.
"We are still five weeks away from finals, it looks like we will be there – that’s not guaranteed yet – so probably the big thing I would say is don’t stress about it too much,” Graham said.
"I know we have got a good team here and I know what we are capable of so I don’t think there is any need to panic. Naturally, we are disappointed the result went against us on the weekend and the performance probably wasn’t at the standards of where we are at.
"But are we looking at it thinking we have got no hope? Absolutely not. Is the coach looking at it and thinking he needs a roster overhaul? Definitely not."
Dufty wasn’t even sure exactly where the Dragons were now placed on the Telstra Premiership ladder after being near the top all season but he was confident the side would get their 2018 campaign quickly back on track.
"Everyone seems to forget we are still equal first or second on the ladder," he said. "I haven’t really looked at it but there is not too much to worry about.
"People have their own opinions and they are going to say things but we don’t really read too much into it. We are a pretty tight group and we only care what each other think."
Graham rejected suggestions the Dragons were tired after supplying four forwards to the triumphant NSW State of Origin team and said outsiders were looking for reasons the team had lost to Melbourne, Wests Tigers and the Roosters in the past month.
Until the round 18 defeat by the Wests Tigers at Kogarah, they had not lost back-to-back matches or a home game this season and after bouncing back against North Queensland they were blown off the park by the Roosters.
"I have been around long enough to know that things aren’t going to go perfectly, ever," Graham said.
"No matter what, the football season is full of ups and downs, and just like earlier in the year when we weren’t get carried away with ourselves and maybe people externally were, we know it is not as bad as those people are saying.
"We want to tweak things here and there, and we want to keep improving … but to be honest it is about sticking to our plan."
Dufty said the Dragons had identified areas they needed to improve from last weekend’s defeat but the players were now focused on the remaining five rounds.
"If you worry about last week’s performance it is not the right sport for you," he said.
"We know where we can improve and, obviously, we all could have had a better game against the Roosters but it’s all up from here."