Dragons pinpoint attitude for NRL slump - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Dragons pinpoint attitude for NRL slump

By Steve Jancetic 16/08/2011 07:18:48 PM Comments (0)

Senior St George Illawarra players claim the attitude problem crippling their NRL campaign is an individual one rather than a club which has lost the hunger to challenge for the title.

Veteran centre Matt Cooper said every player had to take individual responsibility for the club's late-season slide, the one-time premiership favourites on the brink of joining the also-rans heading into Friday night's meeting with pacesetters Melbourne.

With the monkey off their back following last year's breakthrough premiership, there is a thought the Dragons have lost the drive to go that extra yard - a notion Cooper took little time to dismiss.

"I can't speak for anyone else ... I'm hungry," Cooper said.

"I got the taste of victory last year and I want that feeling again.

"It's up to the individual if they really want to win and play well and do the little things right.

"It's probably been a mixture of things, attitude, wanting to win, wanting to play - all those things.

"I wouldn't say we've lost the hunger. I just reckon we need to gain more hunger."

Nowhere is that more evident than with the Dragons' defence.

Once the team's strength, the red wall resembles a sieve - conceding a touch under 24 points a game during their four-match losing streak.

Coach Wayne Bennett described some of his side's goalline defence against the Sydney Roosters on Sunday as "heartbreaking".

"It has been pretty poor, that's one area we've been really strong in the last three years is our defence," Cooper said.

"That's something we pride ourselves on and that's the area we need to improve."

They took some measures to address that at training on Tuesday with a spirited session, the defensive intensity displayed certainly up on recent training efforts.

There's little doubt Bennett is going back to basics as he looks to rebuild his juggernaut, with the players backing the coach's comments that it was up to them to drag the club out of the hole they have dug themselves.

"It's true, he doesn't play, he's not out there on the field," said winger Jason Nightingale, who refuted claims Bennett wasn't doing enough to turn the club's fortunes around.

"Wayne's not the kind of guy to give anything less than his best, we're just not doing it."

Added Cooper: "Obviously he's our leader, he's been there before and done it all before."

"We've got confidence in Wayne that he'll guide us through this."

With the Dragons' season on the line heading to AAMI Park, there's little doubt the players are hoping to feed off what should be a big occasion to help emerge from their rut.

Three of the Dragons' past four losses have been to sides outside the top eight, Nightingale admitting motivation can be tough to generate on a weekly basis.

"It is (hard getting motivated), especially coming towards the end of the year, but that's yet another excuse," Nightingale said.

"The teams that have been knocking us off are probably not the teams up the top of the table, so it probably goes back to attitude as well, where we can turn up for the teams that are at the top, because it gives us a challenge, whereas we haven't been for the other teams that have been beating us.

"If there's any week that we're going to turn up, it's going to be against the team coming first."

It was a sentiment echoed by Cooper.

"It's our biggest game all year, three weeks before the semi-finals and we're playing a side that's been great all year. We're excited about that," he said.

"If we do win, well get our season back on track."

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