NSW winger Brett Morris believes Gareth Widdop could prove to be the signing of the year as excitement builds after St George Illawarra’s red-hot start to the 2014 season.
Victory over a Cronulla side missing several of their top-line players on Saturday would see the Dragons start their campaign with three straight victories for the first time since the club’s premiership-winning year in 2010.
Former Melbourne playmaker Widdop was one of several new signings made by the Dragons and there was pressure on coach Steve Price to succeed going into the new season after two years out of the finals and less-than-impressive trial form.
But after a 42-22 thumping of Wests Tigers in round one followed by a 31-12 win over the Warriors in Auckland, the mood has changed and Morris says morale around the team sky-high.
“It’s very early and can’t get carried away … but I’m very excited. We couldn’t have asked for a better start,” Morris said.
“Having Gareth here has been huge for us. As is having Gerard Beale back after his injury last year. It’s made things really enjoyable.”
Morris scored the try of the year so far at Eden Park when he scooped up a Shaun Johnson grubber-kick in his own end-goal area, then sprinted 100 metres for a second-half score to ice the game for his side.
While that effort topped the highlights reel, Widdop’s brilliant field goal, when he turned with his back to goal and off-balance slotted the ball over the bar, was a close second and the sign of a player full of confidence and at the top of his game.
“He’s been outstanding, he came here for a reason and that was to get the halves firing. He’s doing that and I’ve been really impressed,” Morris said.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of calmness and in turn helping the team. We’re just jumping off the back of it.
“It can take a bit of time to gel with new players, but everyone seems to be fitting in well so far.”
There were fears the Dragons could struggle in attack without knee injury victim Josh Dugan, who is due back in round seven.
But with 73 points to their name after two games – a figure they only reached in round five last year – Morris says there’s less pressure on the medical staff to rush NSW fullback Dugan back too soon.
“Adam Quinlan has been great at fullback and we seem to have a bit of depth at the club which hasn’t been the case for the last few years,” he said.
“We still have Duges on the sidelines and he’s itching to get back on the paddock as every player is when they’re injured.
“He’s smashing out his rehab and excited about how well we’ve been going. But it’s a good sign that we’re doing so well without him.