Gareth Widdop says St George Illawarra’s finals hopes are not just looking good for this year, but for years to come.

St George Illawarra should not just be excited about their NRL semi-finals chances this year but for years to come as well, according to playmaker Gareth Widdop.

The Dragons kept their top eight hopes alive with a thrilling 27-24 win over North Queensland at Jubilee Oval on Saturday night.

The side has won four from six games since Paul McGregor took over as caretaker coach, including their last three, to have them well placed heading into the bye.

Against the Cowboys they fielded a side featuring 10 players aged 24 or younger. Widdop says the club is not just building momentum towards a 2014 finals tilt, they are constructing a side for future years as well.

“It’s still a very young team,” Widdop said.

“I still think I’m young at 25. We went through a bad patch and the young fellas found it a little bit hard.

“But since Mary (McGregor) has come in he’s given them a lot of confidence and the younger guys have played really well over the last few weeks.

“We just need to keep building week in and week out.”

Captain Ben Creagh made special mention of the team’s young brigade, who he said had blossomed over the last six weeks.

“It’s just great to see some of the young guys step up and really playing some good footy,” Creagh said.

“They’re really maturing and there are a lot of guys under 25 years of age in that side, especially in the forward pack.

“They’re really holding their own against some good teams and good players.”

McGregor said the Dragons had few injury concerns with Dylan Farrell (pec) and Brett Morris (shoulder) both expected to return against Manly in a fortnight.

Forward Tyson Frizell (ankle) is expected back in round 23.