It’s taken longer than he expected but Ben Creagh is getting another taste of NRL finals action after three fruitless seasons and a rollercoaster ride this year.
Saturday’s elimination clash with Canterbury at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium will be the Dragons’ first finals outing in four years.
They only missed finals in two of Creagh’s first nine seasons, during which the NSW Origin and Kangaroos forward played in their 2010 title-winning team.
That high-point achieved under super coach Wayne Bennett was followed by fallow times with his successor Steve Price.
For the first time since the joint entity entered the competition in 1999, the Dragons spent more than a year out of the finals. They slumped to ninth in 2012 and 14th in 2013 and then in 2014 came in 11th when Paul McGregor took over from Price during that season.
“It’s been a long time coming for us,” said Creagh, who on Saturday will captain the Dragons in a final for the first time.
“I never expected that it would have taken till now to be playing finals footy again with the club we’ve got.
“But in saying that, within that time there were a lot of coaching changes, a lot of players retired, players move on. But it’s great to be back here now.
“It’s been a real rollercoaster season but it’s great to be in the eight and get an opportunity Saturday night and fight to keep going week to week.”
It was Canterbury who triggered the Dragons’ mid-season slide after Creagh’s team had won eight of nine games to be comfortably placed at 8-3.
A 29-16 defeat by the Bulldogs, who they thumped 31-6 a few weeks earlier during a six-match winning streak, started a run of seven losses.
Creagh pointed out that during that barren run the Dragons were missing up to eight players.
“I think having all those guys back fit and fresh and all their injuries healed now I think has really helped the side,” Creagh said.
“I think also knowing that finals were approaching we needed to start performing and start playing consistently well to give it a good shake.
“We’ve won four from our last six. Some of the wins haven’t been pretty but we’ve been grinding out wins.”