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Origin not behind Dragons slump: Stuart

By Guy Hand 18/08/2011 05:01:51 PM Comments (0)

NSW rugby league coach Ricky Stuart is adamant the demands of State of Origin have not slayed the Dragons.

St George Illawarra's mystifying spiral off the top of the NRL ladder with a four-game losing streak has launched plenty of theories about why, including that a post-Origin hangover is to blame.

The Dragons have won just one match in five since the State of Origin series finished.

But Stuart is confident Origin football is not the reason - though he admits he is as stumped as anyone by why the Saints are sliding.

"It's hard to pinpoint. Just looking through their stats, there's not a real glaring stat there to say that's why they're losing games," Stuart said.

"It's not an Origin hangover, I can assure you.

"There's a number of boys in the Melbourne team who've played Origin, there's a number of players in the Brisbane Broncos who've played Origin.

"What's good about them (St George Illawarra) is they're not looking for a cheap excuse in regards to their form. When you're not hearing cheap excuses, you know there's a win around the corner.

"They've got an experienced coach ... they've got experienced players, and they'll bounce back."

Blues and Dragons backrower Ben Creagh backed Stuart's assessment ahead of Friday night's highly anticipated clash with ladder-leading Melbourne.

"The first year I played Origin I think it took a bit of a toll on me (at) the back end of the year but I think playing a few series now you kind of get used to it," Creagh said.

"You know what to expect and you know how to look after yourself after the Origin period, so that hasn't really been a factor for me and I don't think it's been a factor for other guys in the side."

Stuart, who has been heavily linked with coaching Canterbury next season, gave every indication any return to club coaching would only be in tandem with Origin.

With another season to run on his NSW contract, Stuart has already started his planning for next year's series.

Stuart was in Melbourne on Thursday to help launch next year's series which, much to his disappointment, features an opening game at Melbourne's Etihad Stadium on May 23.

"I'm ecstatic," Stuart said sarcastically about not playing in Sydney until game three next year.

"I don't see it as an advantage bringing one of your home games away to another state.

"But it's been planned, it's not something that's been thrown upon us. We'll be ready for it."

Queensland and Melbourne skipper Cameron Smith was far happier with the move to familiar turf - which could allow the all-conquering Maroons to have the series wrapped up by the time it moves to Sydney.

"You play well in the first game and get victory, it goes a long way to winning a series," Smith said.

"I don't think there's too many teams in the history of State of Origin who've lost the first game and come back to win the series. It's a huge advantage for us."

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