It is the luck of the NRL draw that will likely deliver St George Illawarra another unexpected finals appearance.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor understandably bemoaned the joint venture’s early season schedule, which included three successive matches in Queensland to face North Queensland, Brisbane and Gold Coast.
However, the Dragons are not the only side to face the Cowboys and Brisbane back to back in their own backyard, and the ledger has agreeably evened out for the club since.
They have faced both North Queensland and Melbourne without their State or Origin stars for two wins they arguably wouldn’t have otherwise scored.
They also play the Knights twice this season for a near-certain four points.
The Dragons (8-7) currently sit ninth, climbing to eighth when Parramatta are likely hit with a points deduction for their salary-cap dramas, with 18 points and a bye to come.
Over the final 10 rounds of the competition, they play only three current top-eight sides, and over the entire regular season they will endure four five-day turnarounds, well below the worst-hit side with seven.
St George Illawarra probably have to win only four of their last nine games to make the final series.
They have a five-day break between rounds 20 and 21, and 25 and 26.
But they play the Knights in the final round, and Parramatta and Sydney Roosters in the rounds prior. Both sides whose finals hopes will likely be snuffed out by then.
And McGregor has the chance to prime his side for a finals tilt with a nine-day break between rounds 22 and 23, and an eight-day break between rounds 23 and 24, and 24 and 25.
But, as they say, you make your own luck, and after scoring more than 20 points just once over the first 14 rounds, the Dragons have beaten the Storm 20-10 and the Knights 30-18 to put themselves in a good position to emulate their unlikely finals appearance of 2015.
“Our attack is getting better, we just have to continue to improve,” star playmaker Gareth Widdop said.
“But there are periods of games where we are dropping off and we can’t afford to continue to do that.”
After Benji Marshall’s ongoing hamstring troubles, the former Golden Boot winner has managed to put a number of successive games together.
“Having Benji back on the field and working on that combination works for both of us, it really felt like it was starting to flow last week,” Widdop said.