Tariq Sims has called on young forwards Blake Lawrie and Jacob Host to step up during the club’s early-season injury rush and cement their places in the St George Illawarra squad.
With Sims’s brother, Korbin (broken arm), captain Gareth Widdop (dislocated shoulder) and Test second-rower Tyson Frizell (ruptured testicle) requiring surgery during the opening weeks of the Telstra Premiership, the Dragons have had to rely heavily on Lawrie, Host and a number of other rookie forwards.
In addition, NSW Origin lock Jack de Belin is unavailable under the NRL’s "no-fault stand down" policy while he defends a sexual assault charge and the Dragons will not consider a replacement until the outcome of his legal challenge to the playing ban is determined.
Frizell made a successful return during last Sunday’s 13-12 golden-point triumph over Newcastle but Sims will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks after breaking his arm midway through the first half and Widdop is not due to return until round 23 following his third shoulder dislocation.
Sims played on until half-time without teammates, including Tariq, knowing he had broken his arm and the off-season recruit asked Dragons medical staff to apply a splint so he could continue playing but coach Paul McGregor replaced him with Jeremy Latimore.
"It was a pretty amazing effort to do what he did," Tariq said of Korbin’s bravery. "He played for 15 or 16 minutes with a broken arm. We all didn’t know the extent of what happened out there because he wasn’t saying anything to anyone.
"I was yelling at him to talk to me out there because in defence he had a lame shoulder, I thought he had a burner in his shoulder and I was about to say to him to sort of toughen up but once I noticed his arm was a bit floppier than it should have been around the forearm area I realised it was probably a lot worse.
"That just shows how much the jersey means to him and what it means for him to be able to represent the South Coast and his family. At half-time when they said it was broken the first thing he said was ‘can you splint it up so I can get back out there for Mary’.
"That definitely put a bit of pride in me and made me want to go out there and win it for Korbin."
Lawrie will start at lock in Sunday’s match against Canterbury at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, enabling Frizell to return to the right second-row role Host has been filling in his absence.
Host shared the role with Frizell at training on Thursday and he appears set to overcome an ankle injury to take his place on the bench against the Bulldogs.
The clash will be Lawrie’s 20th NRL appearance and the fifth match the Junior Kangaroos prop nicknamed "Blocker" has started for St George Illawarra, while Host is the most experienced of the club's rookies after playing 28 matches, compared to 24 by Leilua and Lomax’s six.
"Those two blokes, Jacob and Blocker, their time is now," Sims said. "They’ve really got to kick on.
"They’ve both been in the system for a really long time, they know it inside and out, they have represented our club in the lower grades coming through and it is about time that they really take their jersey and make it their own.
"Injuries occur, accidents occur, suspensions will occur and things like that so we’ve got to be ready to face anything. If they get called on upon they know they have got a job to do and they have got to fill that void."
After helping to mentor Host in recent seasons, Sims said he was pleased to see the 22-year-old Renown United product play the full 80 minutes against Brisbane two weeks ago, as well 67-minute stint against the Cowboys and 61 minutes against South Sydney.