So, where to from here?
Nine weeks ago St George Illawarra were top of the NRL table.
A minor premiership looked a distinct possibility. A top four finish almost a certainty.
Coach Paul McGregor described Sunday’s loss to Canterbury was “disappointing.” Dragons fans had plenty of other words in mind.
St George Illawarra were booed off at half and full-time at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah after an insipid performance in their 38-0 drubbing at the hands of the Bulldogs – the worst ever loss by a St George Illawarra or St George side at their spiritual home in history.
It was the sad end to a devastating week for the club after the death of Dragons’ hero Lance Thompson on Thursday.
The Dragons can all but forget about the top four heading into the final round and most likely the premiership. How does a team turn around an afternoon like that two weeks out from the finals?
To make things worse, injury was added to insult.
On the back of Paul Vaughan’s season-ending broken foot suffered at training during the week, retiring Jason Nightingale has likely played his last game in the red V after suffering a dislocated elbow.
Euan Aitken tore a hamstring, another who could be done for the season.
Gareth Widdop might return from a dislocated shoulder against the Knights in Newcastle on Saturday for the Dragons’ final regular season game. The red V sure could use him.
McGregor couldn’t hide his disappointment at the reception from home fans – 12,436 strong – post-match.
“It’s shattering. They pay to come and watch the game, it’s very disappointing,” McGregor said.
“It obviously didn’t go to script. We had a lot to play for on the back Lance [Thompson] passing through the week, top four position, Jase’s farewell to Kogarah, last home game… we just didn’t go out and get the job done.”
If McGregor was the most shattered man at the ground, stand-in skipper Tyson Frizell was a close second, saying his side didn’t treat the match with the respect it deserved.
“It’s hard to cop that from the fans but [it’s] rightly so,” Frizell said.
“We can cop losing a game when we’re doing our best but, for what we had to play for, to play like that and not give ourselves any opportunity at all and send off Gypsy [Nightingale] like that is pretty disappointing.
“We had a goal to finish in the top four, I don’t know if that’s out the window, but to have a guy like Jason in your team who’s done so much and not pay him respect was very disappointing.”