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Energy, urgency, and passion are the buzzwords St George Illawarra players are focusing on in the hope of sparking the side back into action heading into what is likely to be a sudden death play-off in the first weekend of the Telstra Premiership Finals.

After being forced to sit through a review of last Sunday's 38-0 capitulation to the Bulldogs, the Dragons acknowledged how much penalties and handling errors hurt them.

Their main focus in Saturday's match against Newcastle will be improving in the "effort areas" of the game.

"It doesn't really matter what your tactics are in footy, if 17 guys have got the same drive to go forward and win the game it will happen," hooker Cameron McInnes said.

"Errors, lack of discipline, not turning in positions we were at the start of the year – they're all effort areas and our effort wasn't there on the weekend. That's up to every individual to make sure he is doing everything he can every moment.

Knights v Dragons - Round 25

"We just need, to a man, more effort, more urgency, more energy and things will turn around because you don't have as much talent as we have in this team and you don't play the way we did at the start and then just lose it. Honesty, it is just about energy, urgency and passion."

The Dragons are assured of a finals berth but the loss to the Bulldogs means they can no longer make the top-four after winning just two of their last eight matches and one of their last five.

"We obviously take ownership of our last five weeks, we have only had one good performance," McGregor said.

"There is a lot we could be better at but the main thing is to apply pressure on the opposition so that they feel it instead of us feeling it.

"Possession-wise we are 15th in the competition in the last 10 weeks. You can't win games coming out of your own end. We need to build pressure and we need to turn that around.

"We play the ball more than any other side within our 40 [metre zone] so we have to cut our errors out, we have got to get consistent line speed and we have got to win field position."

McGregor and McInnes insisted they hadn't witnessed an alleged blow-up between prop James Graham and fullback Matt Dufty after the loss to the Bulldogs, but neither was concerned about harmony within the team. 

Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes.
Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"We all know what James is like, he is so passionate and he gives absolutely everything," McInnes said.

"He was obviously very frustrated, like we all were and things like that happen in footy. They are great mates and whatever happened is left in the past."

McGregor added: "You've got to challenge each other, that's life. There were a lot of frustrated people in the dressing shed after that game."

Despite the setbacks caused by the injuries and falling short of their pre-season goal of finishing in the top-four, McGregor said the Dragons remained confident they could win the premiership.

"There are eight other teams next week who start their off-seasons and eight other coaches who would like to be in the finals so we have got to get the enjoyment around that but first of all we have got a job to do in Newcastle," he said

"We are going to play against a committed team in front of 25,000 of their fans on Old Boys Day so it is going to be a good test for us."

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