Dragons lose Lomax as make-or-break stretch looms

Scott Bailey |

Zac Lomax (centre) will be missing as the Dragons kick-off a season-defining six-match spell.
Zac Lomax (centre) will be missing as the Dragons kick-off a season-defining six-match spell.

St George Illawarra  have lost Zac Lomax for their clash with the Dolphins, as the Dragons brace for a make-or-break six-game stretch to determine their finals fate.

Sunday’s clash with the Dolphins at Kogarah kicks off a tortuous schedule for the Dragons either side of their round-20 bye, with successive matches against six of the NRL’s toughest teams.

The Dragons will be without Lomax, after club officials on Saturday opted to sit him out five days after his NSW State of Origin heroics on an injured knee.

In better news for the Dragons, Ben Hunt and Jaydn Su’A will back up after losing with Queensland in the midweek Origin clash.

After the Dolpins, the Dragons face the Sydney Roosters in round 18 and travel to Brisbane the following week in an Origin-affected game. 

Penrith, Melbourne and Canterbury all follow before the Dragons get some brief respite with a home clash against struggling Gold Coast – and then host high-flying Cronulla in round 25.

Currently on the fringes of the finals places, Dragons players are well aware this period will determine whether they can end the longest finals drought in the joint-venture’s history.

“It’s tough,” prop Jack de Belin said. 

“This next period can really set up our end of year and playing finals aspirations. 

“If we want to play finals we have to win half those games, to set ourselves up for a home stretch which is a little bit nicer than the coming block. 

“There’s some really important games coming up, starting with Dolphins this weekend. We just need to get a win, first and foremost.”

Dragons players have broken up the schedule into an initial three-week period before the bye, as they attempt to keep pace with the top-eight race.

“It’s massive for us,” five-eighth Kyle Flanagan said. 

“It’s so important for our season, these next couple of games. It is against tough opposition. 

“The way that competition table is around the top eight, every game is crucial. Every game is important, and that’s the way we play on the weekend.”

The other priority for the Dragons is consistency within matches.

Their round-two clash with the Dolphins was arguably the worst of the Red V’s season, thumped 38-0 in Redcliffe.

At their best, the Dragons can compete with the top sides. At their worst, they struggle defensively.

And in some matches, the Dragons have gone from best to worst in the space of the halftime break.

“The gap is definitely getting smaller with consistency in games,” Flanagan said.

“It’s just stopping the flow of the game when momentum is going against us.

“That’s been our focus over the bye period, how we could close that gap. That starts Sunday against the Dolphins.”