By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
St George Illawarra fullback Josh Dugan is confident Benji Marshall will recover from a hamstring tear in time to face the Panthers on Thursday night, following the Dragons' nightmarish trip to Brisbane last weekend without their star halfback.
Dugan, who did his best alongside five-eighth Gareth Widdop to hold the spine together against the Broncos, was complimentary of usual prop Jack de Belin's work in the halves.
Yet he remained realistic about the prospects of the stop-gap solution de Belin presents.
"A lot of the pressure was placed on to Gaz [Widdop] and he handled it the best he could I thought," said Dugan.
"It was just one of those games where we were trying to create things and the Broncos were just too good.
"They are one of the best defensive teams in the competition and I think we were getting frustrated at times because we couldn't crack them and we started overplaying our hand a bit which led to errors.
"Jack did a great job for us stepping in there but he's not a natural half so having Benji back this week will be a big boost for us.
"With it being only a small tear, I'll be expecting him to play."
Sat precariously at eighth on the Telstra Premiership ladder – with the Sea Eagles in hot pursuit – Dugan was unsure whether their remaining three games against the cellar-dwelling Panthers, Titans and Wests Tigers was a good or bad thing.
"You can look at it either way. For us we can go into these remaining games with a bit of confidence but with teams outside of the eight you just never know what they're going to do," he said.
"Whether they're going to turn up or play ad-lib footy and throw the ball around I'm not sure so we just have to be ready for anything. But our last three games are definitely winnable from our point of view.
"We probably have to win at least two of them to be a chance but our goal is to win all three.
"Again, in saying that we have to take it week by week and just worry about Penrith."
With the Dragons looking towards a bigger turnaround next week leading into Round 25 after three consecutive six-day gaps between games, Dugan said first and foremost they had to "rectify" their 32-6 loss to Brisbane against the Panthers.
"We trained well all week and did what we had to with the right preparation [before playing Brisbane]," he said.
"I think we were blown off the park initially and were chasing points the whole game.
"Over the last few games we have lost, we've been chasing points and that's not our game."