The second half of the season has never looked so good for St George Illawarra.
Tormented annually by the representative period, coach Paul McGregor hopes State of Origin’s move to the end of the year can turn around his team’s late-season blues.
Renowned for being a team that breathes fire early in the year before hitting a hurdle mid-season and fading late, the 18 straight games could suit the Dragons.
Having supplied nine separate players to Origin since 2015 as well as English stars for mid-year Tests, the Dragons’ record is 22-41 in the second half of the past five seasons.
That’s a far cry from their 36-18 record in the opening half of the year, which often comes before the rep period.
“Certainly in previous years there has been a lot of distraction around the Origin period and we haven’t done well through it and after it,” McGregor said.
“So it can only be a positive.
“Keeping everyone in our organisation for the longest period possible is always the best.
“Melbourne have dealt with it (Origin) very well, we haven’t.
“It’s certainly a big positive for us that we won’t lose a number of players for an important time of the year.”
McGregor has previously been a State of Origin assistant and prides himself on producing representative footballers.
The Dragons had five Origin players in 2019 but McGregor and his players realise this year’s schedule schedule means missing the finals could hurt the prospect of representative honours.
Players face a 5-1/2 week gap between the end of the regular season and the series opener, potentially having a huge impact on the hopes of fringe players.
“It’s no dissimilar to picking a Test team,” McGregor said.
“Most the Australian Test teams are made up of who plays finals footy, and a lot of selections come from players who are playing in finals footy.
“Players understand to be selected at the elite level you have to be playing at that time to be in the best shape, and be in the forefront of the selectors minds.
“Come Origin time you want your team playing.”