By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
The embarrassment of losing to a patched-up Warriors outfit at the beginning of the month has the Dragons well prepared for the Origin period, according to skipper Gareth Widdop.
The Dragons went to Auckland in Round 9 against a Warriors team missing suspended six-piece Manu Vatuvei, Konrad Hurrell, Ben Matulino, Bodene Thompson, Sam Lisone and Albert Vete and were comprehensively beaten by 16 points.
On Saturday they will come up against reigning premiers North Queensland who will be without Queensland Origin stars Matt Scott, Michael Morgan, James Tamou, Johnathan Thurston and Justin O'Neill as well as New South Wales' James Tamou.
Widdop is hoping his side play with no mercy against the depleted Cowboys ahead of their bye next weekend with Josh Dugan being their only Origin player unavailable.
"That game in New Zealand was certainly disappointing, they had a lot of key players out and our attitude on that day was not up to standard," Widdop told NRL.com.
"The boys learnt a big lesson from that. It doesn't matter who takes the paddock they'll turn up. In that instance, we didn't turn up so we need to on Saturday heading into the bye round."
Veteran Jason Nightingale was equally disgusted as his skipper in regards to the Dragons' performance across the ditch.
"We turned up thinking it was going to be easy and it definitely wasn't that," Nightingale said.
"We can't be complacent and that's been a big part of our preparation this week, making sure we don't let this chance slip because we do need to get back into that top eight."
Positively for the Dragons though was that the Warriors game signalled the end to the Red V's interstate travel for the season.
The Dragons' trip to Newcastle in Round 16 is the only instance where the Red V fail to play in either Wollongong or Sydney.
Currently locked in a four-way battle for eighth spot on the NRL Telstra Premiership (five wins, six losses), Widdop is happy that his side has remained in touch with finals football after an arduous three months.
"It was a tough period there with all the travel but it might be a blessing in disguise really being able to get it out of the way early. It's pleasing to hang around town and stay at home," Widdop said.
"We would've liked to be a lot higher than where we are but we're still in touch [with finals football] so it's in our own hands now and becomes a matter of improving every week."