Dragons with eyes on major NRL prize - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Dragons with eyes on major NRL prize

By Steve Jancetic 12/07/2011 06:05:47 PM Comments (0)

St George Illawarra claim a tilt at a third straight minor premiership is not a priority as they look to regain some momentum heading into the NRL finals.

The reigning premiers have slipped to third with just one win from their past five matches, their once seemingly relentless charge towards the another JJ Giltinan Shield derailed by an exhaustive State of Origin campaign.

They trail ladder leaders Melbourne by three competition points and Manly by one, but reeling them in is not a focus, according to winger Jason Nightingale, who claims health and form are top of the list over the run home to the finals.

Those desires copped a blow on Tuesday with news skipper Ben Hornby will be out for another three weeks due to a broken hand, suffered against Newcastle in round 16, his loss tempering the return of Matt Cooper and the club's array of Origin stars.

"Not really, we're not thinking about that. It's just getting ourselves in the best position possible for the end of the season," Nightingale said when asked about the quest for another minor premiership.

"Obviously, you finish in the top two, it's the best positions to be in, but one or two or three or four, they all get home semis and that's probably our priority at the moment.

"We just hope to win as many games as we can - just because you don't finish first doesn't mean you can't win the comp - you might finish eighth and still win the comp."

Given there is a six-point break between fifth and eighth, a drop back to eighth is unlikely, but the Dragons could find themselves out of the top four with a loss on Monday night to Cronulla.

Coach Wayne Bennett admitted during the hectic Origin period that he was unsure whether the club could recapture the form, which had the Dragons comfortably atop the ladder heading into the batch of representative games.

But with the likes of Mark Gasnier, Darius Boyd, Jamie Soward, Ben Creagh, Beau Scott, Brett Morris and Cooper - who hasn't played since breaking his hand, cheekbone and eye socket in late May - back on deck, Nightingale is confident it won't take too long for the premiers to get back in the groove.

"We've had the combinations now for a couple of years. It's just managing everyone's bodies and making sure that people are right at the right time and rekindling the formations that we've had the last few years," Nightingale said.

"I'm definitely confident ... we've got no excuses from here on in and we'll focus and do the things that we've done the past seasons."

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