After venting his frustration at St George Illawarra’s 36-14 loss to 12-man Canberra outfit at WIN Stadium on Sunday night, Paul McGregor still believes the Dragons can win the grand final.
With prop James Graham due to return next week from a broken leg followed by captain Gareth Widdop after shoulder surgery, St George Illawarra are nearing full strength at the right end of the season but it may be too late after a performance McGregor labelled their "worst of the season".
McGregor estimates the Dragons need to win six of their remaining eight games to make the finals and when asked if that was possible, he said: "Absolutely. I think we can win it."
However, the St George Illawarra coach qualified his comments by saying the team would need to improve dramatically on their lacklustre performance against Canberra in the team’s last home game of the season at their Wollongong base.
"I know that sounds unrealistic sitting here right now but that is how I approach every training session and every game," McGregor said.
"If we can bring our best performance we can win games and we can win a few in a row to play finals. If we are healthy, look out. But we have got a long way to go after tonight because that was disappointing."
With so much at stake against the Raiders, he was deeply disappointed the Dragons missed 54 tackles, committed 10 errors and conceded seven penalties.
After fighting back from 26-0 down before Raiders centre Nick Cotric was sent off in the 59th minute, the Dragons failed to take advantage of an extra-man advantage and conceded two tries before Matt Dufty raced 80 metres to score just before the siren sounded.
A win would have kept St George Illawarra two points behind eighth-placed Penrith, who they play at Panthers Stadium on Friday night, whereas the Dragons are now 14th ahead of only Canterbury and Gold Coast.
"I am not going to defend that performance at all, that was the worst performance of the season," McGregor said.
"It was just one on one missed tackles by our edges that led to tries, then some disciplinary areas around our penalties and fundamental errors that shouldn’t be happening.
"We have had our distractions this year but we had enough talent on the field today to win that game and we didn’t go close so we have to own up to that performance and change that because that is not acceptable.
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"It was the last game at WIN for the year and this is where they train every day, the importance of the occasion, we had the boys who played Origin, we had Tariq [Sims] back, we put in a good performance the week before and only lost by a penalty goal against Melbourne without nine players.
"We had every reason to go after the game tonight and we just didn’t.
"I think it was a performance that we have all got to take ownership for, the coaches and especially myself. I am at the forefront of that so we have all got to improve."