Gareth WiddopDragons five-eighth Gareth Widdop knows Melbourne trio Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater well enough to see the folly in dismissing the Storm’s premiership chances this year.
After many seasons setting the standard for week-in, week-out excellence, the Storm spent much of 2014 on the edge of the top eight before being forced out the finals back door by eventual grand finalists the Bulldogs.
The fade-out combined with the fact that the ‘‘big three’’ are all on the other side of 30 has prompted suggestions the Storm are on a downward spiral ahead of their round-one clash with the Dragons.
Widdop cut his teeth alongside the champion triumvirate and laughed off suggestions that they are on the wane.
‘‘When you’ve got Craig Bellamy as a head coach and with the calibre of players they’ve got in that team I can’t see them spiralling too quickly,’’ Widdop said.
‘‘They’d probably be a bit disappointed the way they ended last year and people have looked at that and made comments on that. People just look at their age and think they’re done now but they’ve had wonderful careers and they’re still playing for Australia and Queensland. They’re great players and the more you write them off the better they’re probably going to become.’’
Widdop came to Wollongong last year to prove himself a star in his own right and in no game was that more apparent than the Dragons’ 24-12 win over the Storm at WIN Stadium in round 16. Widdop scored his first try in Dragons colours and laid on two others in a win that turned their floundering season around. It atoned for a heart-breaking after-the-siren loss to the Storm in round six in the infamous ‘Sirengate’ farce.
‘‘It was obviously a great occasion after what happened down in Melbourne earlier in the year,’’ Widdop said.
‘‘There was an extra bit of fire in the belly there to put in a good performance to get the result.
‘‘I’ve still got a lot of friends at Melbourne and I really look forward to playing against them.
‘‘You’re playing against your friends and you never want your friends to beat you, so it gives you that extra incentive. That night everything just clicked, we played extremely well and got the win.
‘‘But that was last year, it’s been and gone. Our team’s totally different now and theirs is different and it’s about this year now. At the end of the day it’s round one and we need to be getting off to a good start and putting in a good team performance.’’
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