St George Illawarra’s record run of an unchanged starting side looks set to continue with Jack de Belin and Ben Hunt both fit to face Canberra on Sunday.
Hunt (cork) and de Belin (hip) both struggled through Sunday’s loss to South Sydney, but the star pair returned to training with the Dragons on Wednesday after fulfilling light duties earlier in the week.
Their fitness is likely to keep the first-placed Dragons record run alive, given they last week became the first team of the NRL-era to go through the opening 10 rounds without a starting change.
According to Fox Sports Stats, their record goes even further back with Paul McGregor’s team the only team to have had such a run in their records since 1980.
“It definitely does help having the same 17 or same 16 for the past few rounds,” second-rower Tyson Frizell said.
“You get those combinations right and boys usually know how long they’re playing for and how long they can last.
“It makes it a lot easier for Mary (McGregor) and the coaching staff and the players too.
“Hopefully we can keep the same players on the field and we can stick with a small group and we don’t need to go through a big group of players.”
The Dragons’ run is all but certain to come to an end over the next month, with de Belin’s return helping him join six others in pushing their State of Origin hopes.
McGregor has rotated the last spot on the bench in recent weeks, bringing in players who are likely to be used as cover over the Origin period.
Sunday’s clash with Canberra in Mudgee also shapes as a key date for the Dragons, who have only dropped two games this season and are desperate to ensure their form doesn’t slide with back-to-back losses for the first time in 2018.
“We speak about learning from things and it’s how we respond from little hiccups,” captain Gareth Widdop said.
“I thought against the Warriors we performed quite well and we had to back up five days later.
“There’s no excuses this week, we’ve had a full training week. It’s important not to let it happen week after week after week.
“We’ve done well so far to respond and it’s about how we respond this week.”