St George Illawarra winger Jason Nightingale has pinned the blame on the players, not coach Paul McGregor, for the NRL side’s slide down the NRL ladder.
The Dragons’ finals ambitions hang by a thread after their last-start loss to Canterbury extended their losing streak to three, leaving them in 12th spot with five regular season games to go.
And while they still remain a chance to climb back into the top eight, pressure is rapidly mounting on McGregor and Dragons boss Peter Doust to keep their jobs beyond this season.
Nightingale said it was the players’ responsibility to deflect criticism from the coach and CEO.
“The way to quiet that down is to play good footy and we take a lot of the blame for that. We haven’t been playing to our potential or anywhere near it,” Nightingale said on Monday.
“Last week everyone saw that improved effort (against the Bulldogs). We just need to keep on trying hard but also executing the little things to make sure we can put results on the board.”
The Dragons veteran also admitted the playing group were dismayed at the standing down of teammates Tim Lafai and Siliva Havili following their arrest in Wollongong last week.
The club acted by standing the pair down for breaking team protocol.
“We were obviously disappointed. We want to see them back as soon as possible,” Nightingale said.
“They’ve said there was a breach of code. Whatever that breach of the code is, is fair enough as long as we have their backs and we can get them back as soon as possible because anything to do with other proceedings is out of our control and also out of the club’s control.”
Star fullback Josh Dugan has begun mild contact work however is unlikely to make a return from his broken jaw for this week’s clash against an out-of-form Brisbane.
The Dragons are on 20 points with Manly, two points behind four teams on 22, including seventh-placed Gold Coast, the Warriors, Penrith and the Wests Tigers.
The Dragons have a favourable final month of games against Cronulla (home), Sydney Roosters (away), Parramatta (away) and Newcastle (home).