St George Illawarra’s Jason Nightingale says the Dragons can’t use a tumultuous year as an excuse if they don’t qualify for the NRL finals.
St George Illawarra’s representative winger Jason Nightingale has declared any less than finals football will be an underachievement for the NRL joint venture this season.
After a topsy-turvy year, the Dragons finally have found some calmer waters, with interim mentor Paul McGregor signing a three-year deal on Friday to become head coach.
The Dragons rocketed to the competition lead after an unbeaten opening three rounds, before winning just one of their next eight games mid-season, leading to the late May sacking of coach Steve Price.
McGregor has righted a wobbling Dragons since and has been rewarded for his impressive efforts by club boss Peter Doust, with supercoach Wayne Bennett turning his back on a return to St George Illawarra in favour of Brisbane.
Starting with Sunday’s clash against Gold Coast at Kogarah, Nightingale says the Dragons have no excuses if they can’t qualify for the finals despite a disrupted season.
“It is in our hands and we have given ourselves the opportunity to make the eight. We could have done better; we could have been in a comfortable position by now but that is the way our season has gone,” Nightingale told AAP.
“It is great that we have turned things around to put ourselves in this position but not making the finals would be an underachievement.
“I think mainly our middle of the season really let us down. We had a good start with three straight wins but, after that, we had a really down patch for a long amount of time.
“We have put on some good performances the last couple of weeks, but we have failed when we have played the top-four teams so there is a lot of improvement to go if we are to make an impact in the finals.”
Finals footy is beyond the Titans but Kiwi international Nightingale is wary of a Gold Coast side who have consistently troubled the top sides all year.
“It is a dangerous proposition, they have nothing to lose and they were good against Manly last week,” he said.
“They won’t want to finish the season without a fight.”
Gold Coast prop Luke Douglas will miss the rest of the season after taking a backdated 12-month ban over Cronulla’s 2011 supplements program. His place will likely be taken by Tom Kingston, named as 18th man by interim coach Neil Henry earlier this week.
Queensland forward Nate Myles has also been ruled out the remainder of the season with a biceps injury. Matthew White moves into the starting side, with Maurice Blair coming onto the bench.