Mid-season report card: St George Illawarra pass opening-season hurdles

Core four: Jack Bird, Matt Dufty, Zac Lomax and Ben Hunt are the keys for St George Illawarra if the likes of Paul Vaughan and Blake Lawrie can continue to set a platform. Pictures: ACM

Core four: Jack Bird, Matt Dufty, Zac Lomax and Ben Hunt are the keys for St George Illawarra if the likes of Paul Vaughan and Blake Lawrie can continue to set a platform. Pictures: ACM

It has been an up and down start to the season for St George Illawarra. Here is our mid-season report card for the eighth-placed Dragons.

The good

The four-game win streak that started in round two which included their best win of the season against Parramatta.

The not-so-good

Losing twice to rivals Cronulla and to the Wests Tigers was not on the agenda. An Anzac Day loss and poor second half performances against the Warriors and the Storm dented their early season momentum.

The injuries

Where do you start? Between injuries and suspensions the Dragons have struggled to pick their best 17. The loss of Ben Hunt and Zac Lomax for extended periods has hurt their ability to score points.

The decision

A heartbroken Matt Dufty set up five tries and scored two others in a career-best performance in the Dragons' 52-24 pounding of Brisbane on Thursday - a week after being told he was unwanted by the club.

The comeback

Two-and-a-half years and two hung juries after his last NRL game, Jack de Belin made his return at Kogarah on Thursday night. A week after sexual assault charges against him were withdrawn, the ball-playing lock showed glimpses of what he could do in his first game in 992 days.

The coach

It hasn't been an easy start for Anthony Griffin leading the Red V and he was even forced to bring Gerard Beale back from the NRL wilderness to cover their critical outside back shortage. Six wins is way above expectations after being hammered in the Charity Shield.

The rookies

Injuries have opened the door for the likes of Jaiyden Hunt, Mat Feagai and Junior Amone to make their NRL debuts. The club has also benefited from the arrival of Josh McGuire and Billy Burns.

The surprise

The form of Jack Bird has been a big plus for the Dragons. His combination with Mikaele Ravalawa and Origin forward Tariq Simson the left side has been a welcome source of points.

The future

The Dragons take on the bottom-placed Bulldogs on Monday (4pm), June 14 at Stadium Australia followed by winnable games against the Raiders and Warriors before their bye.

The verdict

B+. Sitting in the top-eight at the half-way mark would have been unimaginable in February. A fit and healthy Dragons team have the potential to be playing in September. The next six-weeks is pivotal for the joint-venture with games against Souths, Roosters and Panthers in the final month of the competition.