The team most talked about is the only one not playing this weekend, but Anthony Griffin isn’t concerned about what he describes as just one bad day of summer.
St George Illawarra have the bye in the opening round, although the pressure is already on after an off-season of controversy. It began with the infamous presentation dinner no-shows, the standing down of Talatau “Junior” Amone over an alleged hammer attack and a heated argument between Zane Musgrove and Mikaele Ravalawa after the Charity Shield loss.
But perhaps the most concerning issue was their on-field performance in that final trial against South Sydney, which the Red V lost 42-24.
Griffin, off contract and in need of a strong start to make a case for a new one, believes too much can be read into trial form.
“I think you can. I’m happy with where they are at,” Griffin said. “If you take that one day out of our last 12 or 14 weeks, I’m really happy with where they are at.
“It might be a blessing for us in the end. We just got it wrong on a few fronts, which can happen in a trial. We will take our lesson out of it and get what we need out of it and move forward. Everything changes next week.”
Anthony Griffin isn’t concerned about the Dragons’ trial form.Credit:Getty
Many pundits have predicted Griffin will be the first coach sacked after failing to guide the Dragons into the finals in his first two seasons at the club. They won half their games last year, a number usually high enough to qualify for the playoffs, but instead resulted in a 10th-placed finish.
If Griffin is concerned about the speculation about his future, he isn’t showing it.
“Everyone is getting paid to have an opinion,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me at all.
“We are going to play well. We know what we’re capable of. I haven’t got any major expectations for them. I know what they are going to do.”
After only three NRL players attended last year’s presentation night, the entire top squad was present for the Dragons’ season launch earlier this week.
“It’s not about proving anyone wrong, it’s about playing the way we want to play. I thought we were really good against St Helens with basically a NSW Cup side and then they went out and beat Penrith.
“It’s not about what other people think of us, it’s about what we think of ourselves and what we want to do.”
One of Griffin’s biggest challenges ahead of their opening game, against the Gold Coast at Kogarah next Sunday, has been finding a halves partner for Ben Hunt. Amone has been suspended, Jack Bird is returning from knee surgery, Jayden Sullivan’s preparations have been hampered by a hamstring issue and Moses Mbye has had mixed results as a starting half.
“It’s not about proving anyone wrong, it’s about playing the way we want to play.”
The Herald revealed that Amone is seeking immediate reinstatement over claims he should no longer be bound by the NRL’s no-fault stand down rule due to the way his case will now be prosecuted. While the NRL is yet to make a ruling on the matter, Griffin said he was preparing for Amone to be unavailable against the Titans.
“That’s a matter for the NRL,” Griffin said.
Instead, Sullivan will be given first crack at five-eighth, while Bird and Jack de Belin are also expected to be fit.
“He did a good job in the trials, Sully. Jack Bird will definitely be right,” Griffin said. “Jack de Belin is more chance of being right than not, we’re just being cautious with him. He’s had a couple of little calf issues, but we’ll see how he goes next week. It’s fairly positive at the moment. We’ll get a better read on Monday. We’ve got a long week, which is good.
“It’s all pretty good, we’re just training and getting ready for next Sunday. To play a real game would be good.”
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