Dragons coach Paul McGregor and fullback Matt Dufty saw Jeremy Latimore ride by on the back of a motorbike after the veteran forward feared he wouldn't have made it to WIN Stadium for Friday night's match due to traffic chaos caused by a fatal accident and hitched two rides.
Latimore, who lives in Gymea Bay, abandoned his car on the highway after sitting in gridlock for 30 minutes and began hitching back towards Sydney before being picked up by a car.
When he again got stuck in traffic, Latimore got out and flagged down a motorbike rider, who took him to WIN Stadium.
He arrived ahead of McGregor, Dufty and a number of other St George Illawarra players whose pre-game preparations were severely disrupted by the 10-vehicle truck and car accident near Wollongong.
Centre Euan Aitken, who took 70 minutes to drive six kilometres from East Corrimal to WIN Stadium, dropped Latimore at his car after the match.
"I moved about 400 metres in half an hour so I just pulled over on the side of the highway, hurdled the median strip and went on the other side of the road and started hitch hiking," Latimore said after St George Illawarra's 22-14 defeat of North Queensland.
"This lad Brett picked me up and it [the traffic] was banked right up so I said 'if I see a guy on a motorbike I am going to ask him if he can give me a ride'.
"A lad has drove past and I go, 'hey brother can you drop me?' He wasn't that keen, then he said 'anything for the Dragons'. I got on the back and we were dodging traffic.
“Duft and Mary [McGregor] saw me on the back of the motorbike. They saw me riding past the [North Wollongong] Novotel. I beat a few of the boys."
Among them was Dufty, who had been sitting in traffic one car ahead of McGregor as Latimore rode past on the motorbike with his Dragons kit bag on his back.
"I got here 10 minutes before warm-up, but it was lucky the coach was one car behind me so it was all good," Dufty said. "It was cutting it close, we were sitting in the same spot for half an hour and it was probably about five minutes to the stadium so I was ready to ditch my car and walk here.
"All the Sydney boys were late getting down here. We are usually on the bus, so we could have had eight people miss the game."
Dragons players had been largely unaware of the details of the accident and were asking afterwards if there was anything the club could do for the nine people who were injured or others effected by the double-fatality.
"They tipped us all up before, they said there was a big crash so to leave early," said Dufty who bounced back after an error-riddled first half to score a try and play a role in another. "I left one-and-a-half hours before but it took me two-and-a-half hours so it was a bit of a rush.'
"We all have our pre-game rituals and when you get here 10 minutes before you have just got to rush, get changed, get strapped and run out. We got the job done so that is the main thing.
"I think the first half was the warm-up but I came out in the second half with a clear focus on no errors and getting involved and that is what I did. When I get involved I play good footy."
McGregor was pleased with his side's second-half effort after the Dragons reversed a trend of starting well and getting run down.
He left Latimore on the bench until 25 minutes before full-time and gave star forwards Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell a long break on the sideline before sending them out for their second stint late in the match.
"I think we all know that if we stop the game after the 30 minutes we are in the top four but for the next 50 we are in the bottom two so to be down by 10 and get to the winning margin that we did is very pleasing," McGregor said.
"We have sort of been manipulating our starters with the guys we have got missing to try and get the right balance of experience and youth out there at the same time to try and eliminate those fade outs.
"It was a bit about managing the Origin players to get the best out of them for the night," McGregor said. "The longer we could leave those guys off the more powerful I thought we could finish the game and that's how it turned out."