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Digital Image by Robb Cox © Gareth Widdop :NRL Rugby League - Round 5; St George Illawarra Dragons V South Sydney Rabbitohs at the SCG, Saturday the 5th of April 2014.

St George Illawarra Dragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop is eager for the challenge of taking on his former club the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park, Melbourne on Monday.

Despite the opposition’s losses over the last two rounds, the England international is wary of the side and knows the Red-and-Whites will have to work hard to overcome them.

The 25-year-old is excited to reform his combinations with halves partner Michael Witt after he was sidelined with a shoulder injury in the first round of the 2014 season.

“I wouldn’t say that we are struggling, poor discipline has led to the opposition getting a lot of possession which has led to a lot of defending on our part,” said Widdop.

“We certainly need to fix a few things up but we’ve been working hard at training and I’m sure we’ll be fine out there on Monday.

“We have to want to stop the opposition and we’re definitely doing plenty in defence this week.

“We have to cut the penalties out, stop giving the opposition good field position and work really hard for each other.

“Obviously Josh Dugan has missed a fair few games over the last couple of weeks but we’ve been working really hard at training and I think the more footy we play together, the stronger our combination will be.

“Change in the halves can have an impact on the game; it’s difficult to be consistent with my halves partner when there have been three different people in that position since the start of the year.

“I need to focus on my job and play the best I can and whoever is in the halves will do theirs and hopefully things will work out.

“I’m really looking forward to going back to Melbourne and playing against the old club; I have a lot of great friends and family down there and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

“They may have lost the last two but we can’t look too much into that, we need to focus on ourselves and focus on what we can control.

“We have been worrying about the opposition too much recently and we just need to worry about us and our ability.

“I’m guessing “Belly-Ache” isn’t a happy man at the moment with their losses, especially when they’ve conceded a lot of points over last few weeks; they’ll be working really hard on their defence and trying to fix things up before Monday.

“I spent a lot of time there playing alongside them so I have a fair bit of knowledge of what they’re going to do out there, but they are a great team and they have many great players.

“It’s hard to stop a certain individual so as a team we need to work together and concentrate on the job at hand.

“It’s going to be a great challenge to go up against Cooper Cronk, I’ve been lucky enough to go head-to-head with him a few times when we’ve played internationally.

“They are a great side and it’s not just going to be a challenge for myself but for the whole squad; we want to improve on our last performance and it will be challenging.

“I think it’s a little bit special that I’m going up against my old club but I’ll be going down there to get the two points.

“Michael Witt brings experience to the side, we are a young team and he’s a traditional halfback; I’m looking forward to striking up a combination out there.

“It was a really disappointing game last week; there was a seven penalty count against us at halftime and when we’re giving that many penalties away you’ll be on the back foot for most of the game.

“Billy Slater is a great player, I don’t think we can look too much into the last few weeks down at the Storm; he’s going to be hard to stop.”

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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