By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
Having had to deal with three bye weekends in the space of the past two months, the Dragons have adapted their training to a 'day on, day off' approach to suit their recent momentum-shifting cycle of fixtures.
Set to play only their fifth game since Anzac Day – coincidentally against the Roosters – this weekend, veteran Dragons halfback Benji Marshall said it's been a difficult period for the club considering they have managed to only maintain a 50 per cent winning rate in this time.
The Dragons' shortest turnaround of six days between Rounds 9 and 10 is an outlier in this period considering the club have had to deal with three long hauls of between 14-16 days without playing between the representative round break and Round 15.
While the players are fresh Marshall said from experience it is more "difficult to get up" for a game following a bye, thus the inspiration behind coach Paul McGregor's new training approach.
"We have had a lot of long turnarounds and a lot of games on Monday nights so when the week is stretched out to the end of the round it's always harder to prepare especially when you see the games of footy beforehand so the day on, day off system gives us an opportunity to rip in for a day and recover the next," Marshall told NRL.com.
"Whereas when you have a couple of days in a row, you can't go as hard consecutively so we go hard for a day and recover, go hard for a day and recover. It has what's got us through to here now.
"When you're driving from Sydney 90 minutes every day to work and from work it takes a bit out of you too, so it gives you a good opportunity also not to double up on travelling days."
Now having to go the remainder of the season without a break (12 games) Marshall said they have learnt plenty of lessons over the past few weeks – none more so following their shock 29-16 loss to the Bulldogs a fortnight ago.
"We've probably [learnt] about our attitude by the way we turned up. The way we played wasn't up to our standard. Even though we were still in the game we didn't do a lot of things we have done in the 12 games before that," Marshall said.
"Little things like our attitude in defence [failed us]. Luckily we were back at it on Monday whacking each other at training. We know it's going to be a long period and a lot can happen in those weeks but I feel our squad is fit enough to get us through it."
Meanwhile Marshall remains wary of the Roosters post-Origin make-up considering they dismantled the Storm 24-12 after Origin I with five of their players backing up.
"When you have guys trying to prepare to play for Origin when you return to your club games it's probably hard to not think about not getting injured for Origin," Marshall said.
"Once that's out of the way as it will be on Wednesday, the last time they came off the back of Origin they turned up and whooped [Melbourne]. They have been one of the toughest teams we have faced this year."