By Mary Maidiotis

St George Illawarra Dragons second-rower Joel Thompson is anticipating a tough challenge against the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle on Saturday.

Thompson, 26, has credited a change in attitude for the Dragons’ recent success and believes the hard work will pay dividends as they look to tackle their upcoming opponents for the inaugural Alex McKinnon Cup.

The NSW Country Origin representative concedes that the start of the 2015 season was not expected but is confident that recent results after back-to-back wins is the perfect tonic to get the season back on track.

“Confidence is very important and I think we’ve earned that confidence, we needed to get back into the grind of footy and that’s what we did against the Sea Eagles and in the second half against the Raiders,” said Thompson.

“We just need to continue that and build on our confidence going into a tough game this weekend.

“We’re really excited for the challenge and they’ve got some quality players there so it will definitely be a difficult task but we are looking forward to going up against them.

“I think the concept of the Alex McKinnon Cup is incredible, the two clubs coming together for the Cup, for Alex.

“I’m sure they will be pumped up and we will be pumped so it’s going to be a good game.

“We did well in the preseason against Warrington but we probably let ourselves down in the first few games, however, it’s still early in the year and we’ve been working hard to get back to what we need to be doing.

“The change in our defence has been due to our attitude, we need to come out in the right headspace, focus on completing sets, not giving away silly penalties and just getting back to our footy.

“We’ve been working really hard here and it has certainly paid off.

“We’ve got guys like Dean Young and other experienced players who are now coaches which has helped us out with our defence and especially for our forwards.

“All the coaches have been good for us, they are pretty focused and calm, telling us exactly what we need to do and improve on, especially to win games, Mary’s been unreal.”