Bulldogs five-eighth Ben Roberts is watched by Jamal Idris as he boots the ball downfield during their training run at Kiama’s Chittick Oval yesterday. Picture: ADAM McLEAN
As the race for NRL minor premiership heats up, the Dragons’ biggest title threat has bunkered down deep within St George Illawarra heartland.The second-placed Bulldogs have set up camp in Kiama this week as they ramp up preparations for the finals series just three weeks away.The battle for first place on the ladder took a twist at the weekend when the Dragons fell to competition also-rans the Raiders at Canberra Stadium. Full coverage of The St George Illawarra DragonsTRY HARD BLOG: Broncos will test the Dragons As a result, it leaves the door ajar for the Dogs to snatch the JJ Giltinan Shield for the minor premiership and the $100,000 windfall that goes with it.The home of ex-St George great Steve “Slippery” Morris, Kiama is now a town divided after prolific tryscorer Josh Morris’ defection to the Bulldogs this season.His twin brother Brett is the Dragons’ leading try-scorer and second overall with 19 tries for the season, while Josh has crossed the stripe on 15 occasions.Having escaped the Sydney spotlight, the Bulldogs trained at Kiama Showground yesterday but were tight-lipped when approached by the media.However, it’s understood coach Kevin Moore is using the camp to formulate a blueprint for their finals campaign.”There’s a few things Kev wants to address and put in place for the finals,” a Dogs insider said.”He wanted to take the players away from the Sydney pressure cooker, it will be a good freshen up with just three rounds to go.”The Bulldogs flexed their premiership muscle on Friday night against North Queensland in Townsville.After trailing 12-6 at half-time, the Dogs stormed to a 22-12 victory.In contrast, the Dragons stumbled to their seventh successive loss in Canberra.St George Illawarra and the Bulldogs both have a 16-5 win-loss record this season, but the Dogs were stripped of two competition points for having 14 men on the field during a stunning comeback victory against Penrith in round two.There was also controversy in the Dragons’ victory over the Bulldogs at Kogarah, when Jamal Idris was denied a try – set up by Illawarra junior Luke Patten – after a contentious obstruction ruling against Greg Eastwood on Jamie Soward.Two points clear at the top of the table, the Dragons superior for-and-against is likely to mean they need to lose at least two of their remaining three games to miss out on the minor premiership.The Gold Coast Titans also remain a mathematical chance of finishing first, four points behind the Dragons.The Bulldogs are one of several NRL clubs to use Kiama as a training base.They have a nine-day break before Monday’s battle with the Roosters and will take time out in the South Coast seaside getaway for some golf and charter fishing, as well as training.The Sharks stayed in Kiama earlier this year following the 2002 Christchurch group sex revelations which engulfed the club.
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