Dragons as hungry as ever: Hornby
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
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.’’