Up against a Cronulla side without the heart and soul of its forward pack, St George Illawarra concede it’s now or never for a charge at the NRL finals.
Six wins from their remaining eight matches is a must for the Dragons to be any chance at the top eight, making Sunday’s WIN Stadium home game against the depleted Sharks a must-win given tests against South Sydney, Melbourne, Wests Tigers and North Queensland still await.
“We’re sitting in a position now outside the eight where we need to string some wins together and start playing some better footy,” Dragons and NSW State of Origin back-rower Ben Creagh told AAP.
“We want to play finals footy, that’s the time of year we want to be playing, but you’ve got to be playing consistently well, you’ve got to be backing up wins.
“It’s got to start now, if we start losing games now we’re going to be out the back door quick smart.”
Helping their cause is the fact international stars Paul Gallen and Jeremy Smith have both been ruled out of making surprise returns from injury.
Worryingly for the Sharks, who could drop to sixth with a loss at a venue they have not won at since 1989, is that their star back-rowers may not be back for next week’s clash against Canberra either.
“Most likely they will both be available to play the Panthers in round 21,” Sharks physio Konrad Schultz said.
“But we will assess them next week to see how their recovery is going and whether or not there is a chance they can play the Raiders next Sunday.”
Creagh said there was no way they would be taking the Sharks lightly, but admitted they were more concerned with what they were doing rather than the opposition.
Their attack is the worst in the NRL having scored 24 points less (236) than next-worst Penrith.
“We’ve been trying a few new things over the past few weeks,” Creagh said.
“It (the criticism) is nothing new – even over the past few years (when we were going well) we were criticised for our attack.
“I think once we start scoring a few tries and things start working for us we’ll get some confidence from that.”