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Absentees no excuse for Dragons

Steve Jancetic 09/06/2011 05:51:34 PM Comments (0)

The culture of success created by veteran coach Wayne Bennett means nothing short of two competition points will be good enough for St George Illawarra's cobbled-together NRL outfit against Gold Coast on Friday night.

Forced to take on the Titans without nine of their best due to injury and State of Origin commitments, back-up backrower Adam Cuthbertson says there has been no lowering of expectations for the match-up with the Titans.

"Wayne's created a great culture at the club - every week the first grader to the fringe player or even the (under) 20s coming through - everyone knows their job and it's clear what is expected of them," Cuthbertson said.

"I don't think the expectation has dropped at all."

Having arrived at the club looking to revive a career seemingly on the scrapheap, Cuthbertson's standing as the most senior backrower in the Dragons line-up at WIN Jubilee Oval on Friday night shows just how depleted the premiers are.

Regular second rowers Beau Scott and Ben Creagh are on Origin duty while lock Matt Prior is deputising for the injured Matt Cooper in the centres.

The other centre - in place of NSW star Mark Gasnier - will be red-headed under 20s lock Alex McKinnon, someone who left quite an impression on Cuthbertson when they first crossed paths.

"He's a tough young kid - he's a ranga - they're always tough," Cuthbertson said.

"He plays a tough game and he's a real strong young kid. I remember in pre-season getting tackled by him and and I thought 'flip, who's this kid'."

The enthusiasm of the likes of debutant McKinnon and winger Reece Simmonds - who will play his first NRL game since 2007 and first of any kind in 2011 having retired from park footy at the end of last year - has Titans coach John Cartwright wary.

"Their Origin players aren't available but to me that makes them more dangerous," Cartwright said.

"They'll still have plenty of experience there and the guys that get a one-off chance usually get out there and make the most of it so they'll be tough."

But with only Greg Bird and Ashley Harrison away with the NSW and Queensland sides respectively, this is a game Gold Coast have to win if they are to mount any sort of late charge to the top eight.

Their dire predicament forced Cartwright to quit his role as an assistant with the NSW Origin side, but there was some good news for the club on the eve of the game.

Veteran utility Preston Campbell re-signed for another season for what will be his 15th year of top flight football.

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