England stand-off Gareth Widdop has backed the decision by St George Illawarra to drop Australia star Josh Dugan before kick-off yesterday for missing the bus to a crucial match.
Dugan, 27 and leaving for local rivals Cronulla at the end of the season, was stood down as the Dragons scored a tense 16-14 win over Penrith at Pepper Stadium.
GEORGE BURGESS: Came off the bench for 31 minutes, making 41 metres and 21 tackles.
TOM BURGESS: 68 metres and 31 tackles in a 50-minutes stint as South Sydney were lapped 64-6.
“We’ve got standards within our playing group and if you’re not living up to those expections then these are the big calls that we make,” said Widdop.
“I’m fully supportive of the decision for the growth of the club.
“Like I said, you’ve got to live up to standards. We’re professional athletes and we’ve got to do the right thing.
“On the back of that, it could have disturbed us but I thought we moved on pretty well from it.”
However, coach Paul McGregor said the decision did not come down to Widdop or the leadership group. “No, it’s my call,” he said.
While Widdop was celebrating victory and his side remaining in the premiership race going into the final round of the regular season, compatriot Sam Burgess fronted the media to explain a 64-6 loss to Melbourne at AAMI Park.
SAM BURGESS: Endured the full 80 minutes of the AAMI Park debacle, making 93 metres and 31 tackles.
GARETH WIDDOP: A couple of goals and 24 tackles as St George Illawarra upset Penrith16-14 at Pepper Stadium
“They caught us off guard a little bit,” said Burgess. “I thought we found our way back into the game early on.
“Damien Cook had a try disallowed. They’re just a very clinical team. Every opportunity they got, they took tonight.
“It’s disappointing, obviously, being on that score line but we just have to learn from that. They put a few players under pressure tonight.
“It’ll be worse if we don’t learn from it. We just have to take some things out of tonight.
“You can only say things (to your team-mates under the posts) so many times. I didn’t get much reaction, which is disappointing. But we’ve got some great guys there.”
JOSH HODGSON: A try assist & 24 tackles in a 65min stint at Canberra beat Newcastle.
JAMES GRAHAM: 143 metres and 23 tackles in just 48 minutes at Robina.
James Graham shrugged off speculation over his own future and that of coach Des Hasler to lead Canterbury to a 26-14 win over equally-troubled Gold Coast.
“All the reasons are there for us to not turn up,” Graham said, in reference to the fact the Dogs can’t make the finals.
“But we’re playing for different reasons and I’m really proud of the effort today.
“We were probably on the wrong side of the momentum in the second half. Only a year ago we came up here in a similar situation, went up 16-0 and ended up losing in extra time.”
ELLIOTT WHITEHEAD: 20 tackles and 85 metres in 56 minutes on GIO Stadium during a 42-28 win.