By Chris Kennedy (NRL.com)
If a tough 26-0 loss at Brisbane a fortnight ago was the lowlight of new Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop's season so far, a tough man-of-the-match effort in a 20-18 Anzac Day win over the Roosters is surely the highlight.
The difference shows great strength of character and he was praised for exactly that after the game by his coach Pal McGregor, who ignored suggestions from outside the club that maybe the star Englishman may be better off without the additional burden of captaincy.
"There was never one thought that came into my mind to ever take the captaincy off Gareth," McGregor said.
"He's new at the role and it takes a while to understand that role but he's a person that competes on everything and that's what you want from the captain. What he says, everyone listens to.
"Seeing his performance the last two weeks have been exceptional and a big part of why we won both games. 'Gaz' is a hard-working honest person that will always be held very highly by everyone coaching at the club."
Epitomising the Test pivot's competitive nature was a determined chase through on his own bomb that meant he was the only man in range to take advantage from a drop by young Roosters custodian Latrell Mitchell, and in the process he bagged a crucial four-pointer.
"He put the kick through and he was the one leading the chase. There were a lot of other people in a better position than him to chase the ball but they didn't do it, Gareth did it and that's what leaders do," McGregor said.
"Certainly if you're persistent like that you'll come up with results like he got. That's something about Gareth and his game that goes unnoticed by some but not by people that watch it closely – the amount of work he does away from the football is the most important thing."
Widdop said there had been some soul-searching after tough back-to-back away losses to the Cowboys and Broncos in Round 5 and 6, being held to nil in both lopsided losses.
"We had a tough road trip up to North Queensland then on to Brisbane and I set high standards for myself and it wasn't good enough," Widdop said.
"You just have to look at yourself in the mirror. I wasn't doing my job for the team and it hurts everyone."
He said the captaincy is a new challenge for himself in where he is in in his career currently.
"You learn along the way. The last few weeks I've probably learned not to worry about everyone else and worry about your job and yourself first and things will take care of themselves so that's what I've looked to do and I've got a good bunch of men around me who certainly make it a lot easier," he said.
"I'll keep learning and I'll never shy away from the challenge and keep improving on it."