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Dragons vow not to waste their chance

By Steve Jancetic 11/09/2010 12:26:24 PM Comments (0)

Don't die with the music in you.

Nearly a decade may have passed since St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett published his inspirational book, but for current-day Dragons players, the message behind the title remains as pertinent as ever.

On the eve of their qualifying final against Manly at WIN Jubilee Oval on Sunday, Bennett's Dragons have vowed not to waste the opportunity put before them, St George Illawarra just three wins away from finally shedding the dreaded chokers tag.

It was the same position they found themselves in just 12 months ago, minor premiers after a dominant regular season before crashing out of the finals with back-to back losses.

In the second of those losses against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, the Dragons fell behind 24-6 by the hour mark.

It was only then that red and whites began chancing their arm, but by that stage, it was too little too late.

"The same thing happened up in Brisbane this year (a 10-6 loss to the Broncos in round 21), the last 15 minutes I pulled my finger out," Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward.

"It's frustrating, Wayne sort of said to me 'why wait until the last 15'.

"We don't want that to happen again, I don't want it to happen again. We need to be in it for the 80 minutes and it starts on Sunday."

Asked if he had reminded his players of the need to take advantage of the position they have put themselves in, Bennett said:

"They all realise that - they know where they were last year and I don't think there's anyone here that wants to waste any chances this year."

Bennett believes his players are fresher and in better form heading into the finals than they were 12 months ago, which is more than can be said of the opponents on Sunday.

Suspension and injury has robbed the Sea Eagles of a host of key players, while Anthony Watmough (ankle) and Keiran Foran (shoulder) are both rated only 50-50 chances of playing, with a final decision due on game day.

Whatever the circumstances of the opposition, Soward claims he and the team are better placed to be a success in the post-season.

Soward's elevation into the top echelon of NRL players in 2009 was central to the Dragons capturing last year's minor premiership, but the diminutive pivot has found a consistency about his play in 2010 that he didn't have last year.

"Last year, I kept getting the ball bounce my way," said Soward, who has scored just six tries in 2010 compared to 12 last year.

"If a loose ball was there it just happened to bounce up for me, but in finals football that stuff just didn't happen and I probably paid the price personally for that.

"I was devastated when we lost because I was looking around and going 'well what do I do now'.

"This year I've found other ways to get into games if we're losing, if it's a kick or a good tackle or whatever ... I'm a lot happier and comfortable with my footy this year."

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