Test stars Ben Hunt and Tyson Frizell admit they need to perform well in the Dragons' last five matches to retain their positions in the Australian team for the end-of-season international campaign.
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga will pick a squad after the grand final for the World 9s at Bankwest Stadium on October 18-19 and Tests against New Zealand at WIN Stadium on October 25 and Tonga at Eden Park on November 2.
However, with St George Illawarra out of play-off contention rival players will have a chance to impress Meninga and it could be a case of out of mind, out of sight for Hunt and Frizell.
“It definitely hurts us for sure and that is why we have got to play better at the back end of the year,” Hunt said.
“The teams that make the finals are obviously the teams that are going well and their players are in form, and they obviously have a few more games to show Mal what they can do. To be picked we’ve obviously got to be right on for the last few games.”
The Dragons have five more games and must overcome Gold Coast on Saturday at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium and September 7 at Cbus Super Stadium to ensure they avoid the wooden spoon.
Match: Dragons v Titans
Round 21 -
Venue: Netstrata Jubilee Stadium
- LIVE PASS
Frizell said the players were aiming to finish much higher up the ladder and if they were able to win their remaining matches against the Titans (twice), Sharks, Roosters and Tigers he believes his Test prospects would also benefit.
“That is something that has been put on the back burner to be honest and I’m not even worrying about it,” Frizell said.
“It’s been a tough year. Since last November the boys have been training as hard as possible to get to the finals and we want to finish the year on a high by winning every game we can and that stuff will take care of itself. We need to be playing good footy individually and hopefully we get selected at the end of the year.”
Frizell has played 12 Tests for the Kangaroos since 2016 but if he was overlooked the St George Illawarra second-rower would have the option of playing for Tonga or Great Britain Lions, who are touring the Pacific for the first time since 2006.
He is eligible for the Lions through his Welsh-born father Andrew and represented Wales at the 2013 World Cup, while also making himself available for selection for the 2017 tournament before being chosen by Australia.
His grandfather is a leading member of the Tongan community in Wollongong and his mother’s side of the family would be extremely proud if he represented Tonga, with many of them travelling to Auckland for last year’s historic Test against Australia.
Hunt said he had not spoken to Meninga since Origin II in Perth and admitted playing hooker for Queensland in the series had taken a far great toll mentally and physically than he anticipated.
After being rested three weeks ago from the match against Penrith, Hunt said he was feeling fresher but admitted confidence was affecting the team in their narrow losses to South Sydney and Parramatta.
“Honestly, it was a bit harder than I thought it was going to be,” he said. “I thought that because I play half every week it would be easier to come back to that, and hooker is a lot more simpler position so I could go and do that and just come back and play halfback again but coming back I was more fatigued and a lot more mentally drained than I thought I was going to be.
“If I get picked again I have got to find a way to handle it a lot better. I always had the goal of playing Origin this year but I never imagined it would be that sort of situation. Knowing that I am a chance of doing that again I can prepare a lot better.”