St George Illawarra Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop looking to bounce back from “disappointing” season

Gareth Widdop, the other half of what was one of the game’s most maligned halves pairings, knows it’s time to lift.


“It’s disappointing, there’s no doubt about that,” Widdop said of his 2016 form. “As a team and an individual, certainly it was inconsistent, if you like. This year I need to get back to what I do best and what’s going to help the team. If I can do that, we can win some games.”

Benji Marshall copped much of the flak for St George Illawarra’s sputtering attack last season. Now that Marshall is a Bronco, there will be more pressure on Widdop to orchestrate points in a new halves pairing that still remains a mystery.

A serious injury to Drew Hutchison has left the race for the halfback spot wide open, with Josh McCrone jockeying for the spot with the untested Jai Field and Shaun Nona.

There is no clear standout after the joint-venture outfit’s disappointing loss in the traditional pre-season Charity Shield clash with South Sydney.

As the captain and marquee man – one off contract at the end of the season – Widdop will face even more scrutiny if the Dragons don’t produce points in the post-Marshall era.

“Benji is obviously the life of the party,” Widdop said.

“The club is a lot different to what it has been just for the fact of the staff and turnover that we had. Obviously he’s a big character, a big personality. It’s different, we’ve got a young team and I certainly miss having him around. It gives opportunities to Josh McCrone, Shaun Nona and Jai [Field].”

Coach Paul McGregor, himself off contract and under pressure to earn a new one, has vowed to overhaul the side’s attack in a bid to make it morepotent.

The Dragons face a difficult start to their campaign with clashes against the Panthers, Eels and Sharks in their opening rounds. Red V supporters, among the most passionate in the league, will demand changes if there isn’t an immediate improvement in 2017.

“That just comes with the territory of the Dragons brand,” Widdop said. “It’s a big club … it’s just the way it goes, I guess. All we can do as players and individuals and a team is go out there and do our job.