St George Illawarra forward Jacob Host believes the club’s decision to split home games between their traditional suburban venues could help propel the Dragons towards a top four finish.
The Dragons announced in September they would play 10 of their 12 home games at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah and Wollongong’s WIN Stadium split evenly in 2018 – the spiritual homes of St George and Illawarra.
The remaining two home games will be the traditional ANZAC Day clash with the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium, while the Dragons will take their round 11 clash with Canberra to Mudgee as part of a two-year agreement which will also see the club play a home game in the regional centre in 2019.
Dragons CEO Peter Doust said in October the Mudgee partnership would essentially balance the cost of playing their remaining home games at Kogarah and Wollongong.
The club have abandoned ANZ Stadium and the SCG as home venues, where they hosted matches last season, following a review of their ‘right game, right venue’ strategy. The Dragons won four out of their five matches at Kogarah last season but lost half of their home games at Wollongong and ANZ Stadium and lost their only home match at the SCG.
The Dragons returned to pre-season training on Tuesday and host Brisbane in the 2018 season opener at Jubilee Oval on March 8.
And Host, a St George junior with Renown United, told the Leader he believes more games at the Dragons’ suburban homes will equate to more success on the field.
“I think the suburban grounds it feels like the fans are much more part of the game and have a bigger influence in the way we play,” he said.
“At the bigger stadiums sometimes it can feel like the crowd is more scattered and the atmosphere is flatter which I think can translate onto the field.
“Kogarah and Wollongong when they are full is a massive factor. It’s fantastic, playing games in front of our passionate fans lifts the team. I know the boys love playing at Kogarah and Wollongong.
“Kogarah is definitely my favourite ground to play footy at. I dreamed of playing in front of the big crowds there for years and years as a kid. To play first grade for a couple of games there when it has got that buzz, rocking up with the fans all out the front of the ground and then when you run out for kick off is a fantastic feeling.
“All the boys understand the proud history that goes with Kogarah. St George had some formidable sides that played there. It’s something everyone really respects and wants to strive towards ourselves to create our own history.”
St George Illawarra and South Sydney will also take their traditional Charity Shield clashes to Mudgee for the next two seasons.