Veteran prop Jeremy Latimore has provided his St George Illawarra comrades with a valuable insight into his former Cronulla Sharks teammates ahead of Thursday night’s local derby at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Latimore, who joined the Dragons this season after a year with the Sharks, revealed coach Paul McGregor had asked if he could provide any tips on the 2016 Telstra Premiership winners.
”He asked a few little things but I am a middle so I don’t really know too much about what their game plans are,” Latimore said.
”They have got a style of play and it is physically coming and letting teams know that they are there to play.
”After being there I know that is their mentality. They are a gritty team, and I think come the mid-point of last season Cronulla were the best defensive team and then they fell away so I know that is something they pride themselves on.
”There is a lot of tough, old boys there who pride themselves on getting off the line and physically overpowering their opponents.”
The Sharks were outgunned 20-14 by the Cowboys last Friday, while the Dragons triumphed 34-12 against the Brisbane Broncos 24 hours earlier, but Latimore said it was impossible to gauge form after just one round.
However, he believes the Dragons forwards will need to be as physical as they were against the Broncos to overcome a pack featuring Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior.
The Sharks have a new look backline after signing Matt Moylan from Penrith Panthers and ex-Dragons international Josh Dugan, who has been tipped to switch from the centres to fullback.
”Games against Cronulla are always won in the middle,” Latimore said.
”That is where their strengths are, they have got Wade Graham, big Fifita and Gal in the middle, and Matty Prior.
”If we win through the middle I think we can nullify their threats. Matty [Moylan] is still finding his feet, Dugan will come with a point to prove so it will be a good game. It’s up to us as the middles to take it to them.”
Latimore and Leeson Ah Mau made an impact for the Dragons last Thursday night when they interchanged with starting props James Graham and Paul Vaughan and lock Jack de Belin.
The well-travelled 31-year-old said they would be looking to do the same against the Sharks.
”There is a bit of a siege mentality for both teams,” he said.
”You don’t want to give one to the opposition and it is a bit of a pride thing to win the local derby.
”They have had a bit of success in the last couple of years and the Dragons have missed the finals so it is a new beginning for us. It is about consistency and doing it every week. We’ve got aspirations to be a top team so we have got to go out there this week and do that.”
Dragons captain Gareth Widdop, who celebrated his 29th birthday on Monday, said the team would be looking to build on their performance against the Broncos when they meet the Sharks in one of the NRL’s most keenly contested derbies.
”The local derby at Shark Park is always one of the best games to play throughout the year so I think everyone is pretty fired up to get out there,” Widdop said.
”It is what it is all about, playing these big games and testing yourself.
”We have certainly got a good roster and with the squad we have got there is no reason we can’t do special things this year but we know it takes a lot of hard work and this competition is so tough.”