St George Illawarra Dragons Head Coach Steve Price is thrilled with the Red-and-Whites performance in their first game of the season against the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium, Olympic Park on Sunday.
Price was particularly impressed with new recruit and five-eighth Gareth Widdop’s on field performance and believes he has the potential to be a leader at the club.
Despite the Charity Shield loss, the third year coach never second-guessed the arduous preseason training sessions the Red V endured and is certain the squad has what it takes.
“We scored 24 points after 15 minutes which we haven’t done for a long time; it was very pleasing,” said Price.
“I’m really happy with how the boys bounced back after the loss a few weeks ago, I always had the belief and the confidence in the playing group they had what it takes to get to where we are today.
“Gareth Widdop brings a level of calmness to the side, he’s a true professional with everything he does.
“He’s a good leader within our footy club and he supports our Captain when he needs it; he showed the type of player he is and his kicking ability, he kicked eight from eight today.
“We began to get a bit more time in possession which assisted us in pulling it together; the Tigers got a few penalties in the first couple of minutes and when we started to get possession we started scoring tries.
“Getting possession helped with everything; we got our ruck defense right, got a bit of line speed which got things moving from there.
“I think it was a massive play when Koroibete was attempting run the ball into the field of play but was pushed back into the in-goal area.
“It’s all about commitment and resolve to our footy team and there was plenty of that today, so we’ll take the positives from it and go over to New Zealand and play our best against them.
“Our trials were to prepare the players and try new and different combinations.
“We have a very proud club and very proud men and we showed that today; our whole focus during preseason and the trials was on Round 1 and we got the job done.
“We’re always looking to score a few points, but it’s going to take a little bit of time for new combinations and new plays; we can take a lot of confidence from today and build off it.
“We never second guessed ourselves when we lost against the Rabbitohs in the Charity Shield; during the whole preseason we had good principles in place and we knew the playing group so we knew what we had to tidy up.
“Witt got a bit of shoulder injury so we’ll send him for scans along with Jack de Belin who got a bit of a knock to his leg so it will be a few days before I know if they’ll be on the plane to New Zealand or not.
“Today showed that we need to tidy up our starts but for 60 minutes we played some really good football, it’s extremely early in the season so we can build of today.
Dragons Skipper Ben Creagh was also impressed by Widdop’s game and believes the Red-and-Whites defense has improved since their Charity Shield match against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“In the first 18 minutes we gave away some penalties and they scored off the back of those; I thought the ruling on that try was tough.
“I just told the boys that if we complete our sets, get to our kicks and be disciplined in defense we can turn it around which we did for the remaining 60 minutes.
“I thought we were really patient in attack and our defense was infinitely better than when we played in the Charity Shield.
“We really worked on defense in training; the boys have been hitting together, tackling together and working together to put in a good performance.
“Widdop brings a lot of experience but in attack he’s very patient and has a calm head on his shoulders, which is just what we need for the young side we have at the moment.
“There’s no rushing out there, we’re not trying to do things too fast and the attack is set so Widdop is really good.