Jeremy Latimore understands why Brisbane are favourites for their elimination final but maintains the Dragons have a big point to prove.
It will be do or die for St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday, with the added pressure of a first week finals exit hanging over them after a glittering first 16 rounds of the competition that led the Dragons to the top of the NRL table.
The Dragons have lost six of their last nine games with most writing off their premiership chances.
Brisbane on the other hand appear one of the form teams of the competition alongside Cronulla. The Broncos have beaten top four opposition South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters as well as a 32-point hammering of hapless Manly to win three in a row heading into the finals.
But Latimore, who has five finals appearances included in his 162 top grade matches, said the Dragons were keen to prove their critics wrong.
“You can understand why they’re favourites. The way they’ve played over the last couple of weeks. I know it sounds like a broken record but they’re probably the form team at the moment. I know a lot of people are talking about them and that’s for the right reasons,” he said.
“There’s been a few people that have come out and been pretty critical at us over the last month or two. Some of that is warranted, we haven’t been playing well. They’re playing good at the moment so that’s probably why people are talking about them.
“We’ve got to go up there and have a point to prove. It’s a daunting stage up there, there’s a few New South Welshman in our team and a few Queenslanders [playing for Brisbane]. So there’s going to be that aspect as well. It’s a challenge but it’s exciting.”
Latimore said the Dragons would not fear the potentially hostile environment at Lang Park and needed to embrace the challenge.
“It’s going to be a tough environment up there. They’re playing some pretty good footy at the moment. I know they’ll be pumped to play in front of their home crowd. We’ve just got to go up there and play well,” he said.
“They’ve got some big boys that are playing well. [Tevita] Pangai Junior, [David] Fifita is going really good. Then you’ve got [Josh] Maguire and [Matt] Lodge are doing a good job as well. They’re in form so it’s going to be a challenge.
“Obviously Wayne Bennett-coached teams are made for this environment. You see he’s put his magic dust on them over the last couple of weeks and they’ve been playing some really good football.
“But we’ve got to focus on ourselves and go up there and put a performance together. It’s going to be good, a full crowd and we’ve got to enjoy everything up there.”