Tariq Sims is promising an x-factor for spluttering St George Illawarra as the NRL’s worst attack takes on the best defence at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor is set to thrust Sims straight into his starting side to face table-topping Melbourne, just two days after luring the NSW Country Origin representative from Newcastle.
McGregor said providing Sims passed the medical test, he’d likely bolster the Dragons’ pack – depleted by Tyson Frizell’s State of Origin call-up – with his powerhouse mid-season recruit.
“If we think it’s the right thing to do to get the right result for the weekend, then Tariq will certainly come into the picture,” McGregor said.
“He’s certainly a quality player. He was very close to playing Origin footy 12 months ago.”
Averaging only 12 points a game in 2016, the Dragons know they must somehow conjure a way past a Storm outfit conceding on average just 10 points per match – the best in the league.
A local Illawarra junior, Sims is hoping he can be the man to make a difference as the Dragons look to bounce back from Monday’s loss to Canterbury with a win over an NRL heavyweight – albeit without their Origin stars.
“The mentality that the Dragons pack have, it’s one not to be messed with really and hopefully I can add a bit of mongrel and a bit of spark in there,” Sims said.
“Also, in the attacking game, you’re running off the likes of Gaz (Gareth Widdop) and Benji (Marshall) and obviously Mitch Rein running out of hooker there, so I’m very excited to get out there.
“It’s been very long time since I pulled on this jersey and it feels great. I’m really looking forward to it.”
While the Dragons will be missing Frizell, the Storm must make do without Queensland superstars Cooper Cronk and goalkicking captain Cameron Smith as they bid to consolidate thir position atop the ladder.
Coach Craig Bellamy said he’d been too busy running new combinations and ramming home the message to “keep it simple” to concern himself with the Dragons.
“They’ve been up and down but they’ve had a few injury problems also,” Bellamy said.
“Obviously with Benji being in and out hasn’t helped them a whole heap.
“In our situation, our circumstances, we just have to focus on ourselves.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* St George Illawarra’s 159 points scored in 2016 is the worst in the NRL, while Melbourne boast the tightest defence having conceded 136 points in 13 games.
* Despite languishing in 11th place on the ladder, the Dragons have won five from six at home this season.
* The Dragons have only won eight of 32 matches against Melbourne, but their strike rate at WIN Stadium doubles to 50 per cent from eight encounters.