Dragons as hun­gry as ever: Hornby

Townsville Bulletin - - Bizfi Nd -

ST Ge­orge Illawarra cap­tain Ben Hornby in­sists the Dragons head into their NRL sea­son-opener as hun­gry as ever for pre­mier­ship glory de­spite end­ing their long wait for a ti­tle.

The red and whites open their pre­mier­ship de­fence against the Gold Coast at Skilled Park to­day, the first of four con­sec­u­tive away games with Wol­lon­gong’s WIN Sta­dium un­der­go­ing rede­vel­op­ment.

While there is an ob­vi­ous sense of re­lief among Wayne Bennett’s men af­ter shed­ding their ‘‘ chok­ers’’ tag in last year’s grand fi­nal, Hornby in­sists the Dragons won’t have have any prob­lems main­tain­ing the same level of de­sire.

‘‘ I think whether you’re the cham­pi­ons or not, as a team you want to go into each year and try to im­prove and we’ll be no dif­fer­ent to any­one else,’’ Hornby said.

‘‘ I think the pres­sure’s al­ways the same.

‘‘ Ev­ery team wants to do well and wants to start the sea­son well so we want to go up there and play as best we can.’’

Hornby said the play­ers had not even spo­ken about the prospect of back-to-back ti­tles, declar­ing: ‘‘ To be hon­est we just want to try and make the fi­nals.’’

But he said they were pre­par­ing for one of the tough­est cam­paigns of their ca­reers, know­ing teams would be play­ing above them­selves against the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons.

‘‘ I think we’re all ready Hornby said.

‘‘ It’s been pretty well doc­u­mented how much teams want to beat us but there’s not much we can do about that.

‘‘ We can only go out there and worry about how we’re play­ing so that’s all we’ve got to try and fo­cus on this week­end.’’

The Ti­tans have won two of the past three clashes be­tween the teams, the last a thrilling 11-10 vic­tory at WIN Ju­bilee Sta­dium last sea­son.

But they head into the first-round

for

it,’’ match sig­nif­i­cantly weak­ened with for­wards An­thony Laf­franchi, Nathan Friend and Mark Minichiello all sitting out in­jured. Hornby warned the Ti­tans would still be a force to be reck­oned with, tip­ping it would be hard to break down a de­fence he de­scribed as un­der­rated.

With off-field dra­mas dom­i­nat­ing the build-up to the new sea­son, Hornby said he was look­ing for­ward to putting the fo­cus back on the park.

‘‘ All the things hap­pen­ing off the field are hope­fully staying there now,’’ he said. ‘‘ We’d like to go out there as play­ers, not just in our game but ev­ery game, and put on a good show.’’

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