Dragons the new NRL title favourites - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Dragons the new NRL title favourites

By Todd Balym and John Salvado 18/09/2006 06:22:56 PM Comments (0)

St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown on Monday declared there'd be no excuse if his side does not go all the way in 2006 as the Dragons surged into NRL premiership favouritism.

The Dragons are outright favourites for the NRL title at $3.20 with Centrebet, ahead of the Bulldogs ($3.40), Brisbane ($3.60) and runaway minor premiers Melbourne who are now rank outsiders at $4.25.

After conceding just one try in two impressive wins over Brisbane and Manly to extend their winning streak to five games, St George Illawarra is now the punters' tip to win the flag after finishing the season in sixth position well adrift of their top three rivals.

The Dragons battle Melbourne for a place in the grand final at Telstra Stadium on Saturday night.

The Storm have won the previous four encounters but Dragons coach Nathan Brown warned the minor premiers they had yet to play the real Dragons.

"I don't think (Melbourne) have played a Dragons side in the past two or three years that is going as well as this Dragons side," said Brown.

"We're playing much better than we played in previous clashes earlier this year and our defence is going a lot better as well.

"The fact is we're going a lot better this year than we were at this stage last year.

"We respect everybody but are not scared to play anybody.

"We've got a lot more resolve than the club has ever had before.

"We are a much more disciplined team than we used to be, not just with referees but our attitude when to do things and when not to do things.

"We are not frightened about playing anyone."

Brown said he wasn't fazed by the weight of expectation that favouritism adds to his side, even though it crumbled under the same pressure in last year's preliminary final against Wests Tigers.

"It doesn't bother me because at least we are playing well enough to be thought of (as favourites)," he said.

"(But) it's pretty strange that Melbourne can be runaway minor premiers and then third (sic) favourite to win the premiership."

Storm leaders Scott Hill and Matt Geyer welcomed the club's new underdog status, believing the odds reflected each team's current form.

"When you look at how the Dragons have gone in the last couple of weeks they've conceded one try in two games. And Brisbane beat Newcastle by 50," said Hill, whose team had an unconvincing 12-6 win over Parramatta last start.

"When you see that it's only understandable why that's the way it is. I'm quite happy with where we stand."

Winger Geyer, the last remaining member of the Storm's 1999 premiership side that beat the Dragons in the grand final, said odds mattered little on the paddock.

"It doesn't matter, they're only bookmakers' odds," he said.

"Canterbury are getting a lot of injured players back and the two teams who played over the weekend were very impressive. So that's the way the odds fall."

Melbourne's Greg Inglis on Monday declared himself a certain starter for Saturday's clash while opposing Dragons Test centre Mark Gasnier has until match day to overcome his hip related injury.

Bulldogs prop Roy Asotasi continued to press his claims for a starting spot to play Brisbane at Aussie Stadium on Friday night while Broncos forward Sam Thaiday was cleared by the match review committee of a dangerous tackle and is free to play.

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