NRL 2 years ago

Trial or Tribulation. Does pre-season form signal the Dragons will fire in 2016?

  • Trial or Tribulation. Does pre-season form signal the Dragons will fire in 2016?

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Gareth Widdop of the Dragons shows his dejection after the NRL Elimination Final match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium on September 12, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

  • Trial or Tribulation. Does pre-season form signal the Dragons will fire in 2016?

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: Benji Marshall of the Dragons runs the ball during the NRL Charity Shield match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on February 13, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

  • Trial or Tribulation. Does pre-season form signal the Dragons will fire in 2016?

    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 13: Russell Packer of the Dragons speaks to a team mate as he sits on the bench during the NRL Charity Shield match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on February 13, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

  • Trial or Tribulation. Does pre-season form signal the Dragons will fire in 2016?

    NELSON, NELSON - FEBRUARY 20: Mike Cooper of St George Illawarra tries to break the tackle of Ligo Sao of the NZ Warriors during the NRL Trial match between the New Zealand Warriors and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Trafalgar Park on February 20, 2016 in Nelson, New Zealand. (Photo by Shuttersport Limited/Getty Images)




It's 6-4 down and I'm sweating buckets. Not on the field but high in the stand at ANZ Stadium. It's mid February and the Charity Shield is underway at this hot and lifeless place. 

Am I the mad one? It's sayonara to another sticky summer but with the mercury bubbling skywards into Autumn, the NRL competition is hotting up.

Despite the loss and while sitting in the gridlocked car park at games end for 50 minutes, motionless, I reflected on the 80 minutes of ball movement I had just witnessed. Would season 2016 be more of a trial (like waiting in the friggin' car park) or tribulation in the form of back-to-back victories for red and white fans?

Coops looks to have put a few Tetleys away during the off season and Packer is a reformed man. Calls for some bigger bookends have been heard and Mary's men look hungry to go well son.  

Some of us have let fly at Lafai, burnt Benji and hung Hutcho out to dry but there are plenty of positives to hang one's jersey on.

Let's not be curt about Kurt, for Mann's the man you want in a crisis. His man handling of the hapless Rabbitoh into touch was a try saver, game changer and season defining moment during this year's Charity fixture. Despite the loss, Mann's move paid for my entry into ANZ.

 




Have a go at Havili. Could well be the buy of the season. Barring injury, it will be hard to keep Siliva sidelined.

Ain't Ken going well? Gutsy and fearless Euan Aitken is unlucky to miss selection for tonight' softener after his trial form. But having talent to burn out wide is a nice problem to have. Great to see Quinlan back too. 

Lafai is a better buy than Neilson was. Both players were lethal at times when playing for their former clubs. There were nil returns from Neilson but it's too early to linch Lafai. His pairing with Duges looks good, on paper at least.  

Across the ditch to the other major pre-season fixture and Duges played just like Duges does. His flick pass to put Aitken over the line was Sonny-Bill-like in execution and Gasnier-esque in footwork. Can't wait to see him let loose again.

You can have the carry on with Pearce, Klemmer misfiring missiles and fanciful talk of the Broncs going one better than last year. Other than constant speculation about Benji's future, there's been little ink sprayed across the back pages or over the digital sphere that relates to the Dragons. All good, for where there's smoke there's a firey dragon.

Speaking of which, the lift out in last weekends Telegraph somewhat dismissed the Dragons' chances of finishing in the eight. Check out the front cover headline. "Where There's Smoke There's Fire." It would have been far more fitting to show a couple of red and white Dragons' mugshots instead of pics of an injured eel and an overpaid eagle. 

Christmas has already arrived and there are no sleeps left, season 2016 is underway.

At least Freddie Fittler fitted the Red V in his top eight.  Bradley, you are a true reader of the game.  

Trent Barrett (God bless you son, I almost like Manly now) was quick to note the effect a reduced interchange takes on players. It's a fact that is sure to suit lithe Dragons' back rowers JDB and Thommo.

Already, injuries to key players at rival clubs have caused selection headaches for round 2. Let's hope Mary is not in the same predicament as other coaches after smashing Melbourne tonight.

So, season 2016, will it be more a footy trial or tribulation for you?

Warning: language warning

 



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