St George Illawarra will enter just their second NRL finals series in the last seven seasons on Sunday and Tyson Frizell believes they will make the most of it.
The Dragons travel to Brisbane to face the Broncos with their season on the line in an elimination final, a scenario almost unthinkable nine weeks ago as St George Illawarra sat proudly on top of the NRL table.
And Frizell in particular wants to grasp the opportunity.
The 26-year-old has developed into one of the best back-rowers in the game, representing NSW and Australia. But he is yet to fulfill his potential at the highest club level.
Frizell has played just one finals match since arriving at the Dragons from Cronulla in 2013. That was the heart-breaking 11-10 qualifying final loss to Canterbury in 2015.
And Frizell said the Dragons wanted to seize their chance despite their recent struggles.
“There’s a lot of teams sitting out at the moment and for us it’s good to come in and train this time of year. That’s what we’ve been aiming for since day one of pre-season,” he said.
“I’ve only been a part of one finals game. We all know how that panned out. It’s good to be playing footy this time of year.
“[Brisbane will] be going in there favourites. After our performances we’ve been written off by a lot of people. It’d be nice to go up there in their environment, at their home ground and play in a finals game. The boys are looking forward to it and I’m sure the Broncos are ready to go.”
The Dragons have a point to prove to themselves as well as many of their vocal fans who have turned on the team and coach Paul McGregor as they slid from the top of the table to finish seventh on the back of six losses in their final nine games of the season.
But Frizell said the Dragons would embrace their underdog tag with little pressure from outside their playing group to win against the Broncos.
“People are not expecting us to go up there and win [because of] our form the last couple of weeks. The only pressure we have is [what] we put on ourselves. We’re preparing as well as possible,” he said.
“It depends what you take out of it. I don’t find [Suncorp Stadium] a difficult stadium to play at. It’s more enjoyable. It’s what you play rugby league for, the Queensland crowd is very supportive of their sides. A lot of boys haven’t experienced finals footy.
“I don’t really look into it too much. Our fans haven’t been too happy with us but we haven’t been happy with our performances of late. We just want to, depending on the result, know that we went out there and did everything we could and played to our potential. I’m sure if we do that we’ll be in for a good chance.
“[We’ve] obviously not [played to our potential]. We’ve been pretty up and down the past couple of weeks. There’s still a lot of potential there to improve and hopefully we can start this week.”
Jack de Belin hobbled into Dragons training on crutches wearing a moon boot on Tuesday after suffering a syndesmosis injury in the opening minutes of their win over Newcastle on Saturday.
If de Belin was to miss the match it would be a huge blow to the Dragons who are already without Origin prop Paul Vaughan to a season-ending foot injury.
Jason Nightingale (neck) and Euan Aitken (hamstring) are racing the clock to be fit for the trip to Brisbane.