St George Illawarra's NRL finals hopes are hanging by the proverbial thread and could be slashed even further against Penrith on Friday night.
Ex-Panthers coach Anthony Griffin will face his former side for the first time since he was sacked from the club just over three years ago a month before the finals.
Ironically, the Panthers can all but put the Dragons' season to bed on Friday night with Griffin's men tied with Cronulla on 18 competition points with four rounds to play.
The 11th-placed Dragons have one of the toughest finishes to the year after facing the Panthers, with clashes against the Sydney Roosters, North Queensland and South Sydney to come.
They would need to win a minimum of three matches to make the finals with Newcastle, Canberra and Gold Coast locked on 20 points and vying for the final two spots in the top eight.
The Dragons are looking for stability after a month of suspensions and injuries saw them drop from seventh to 11th on the ladder with four straight losses.
“I haven't looked at (what it would take to play finals), I'm just worried about tomorrow night,” Griffin said on Thursday.
“We've had a really good week, that's the first time in five or six weeks that we've been able to put close to the same team on the park so that's helped, and we've had a good preparation.
“We haven't been able to do that for a long time but to have the majority of the side, particularly the spine, most of the forward pack the same this week has made things a lot easier.”
Losses to the Raiders and Titans in recent weeks has essentially derailed their season, but there are still positives for Griffin.
With 12 players serving bans for biosecurity breaches, the Dragons were able to blood young talent with an eye to the future.
Griffin had a hand in developing the junior talent at Penrith during his three seasons there and can see a similarity with the crop of young players coming through at the Dragons.
“The one thing with young talented kids … when you give them an opportunity they very rarely let you down,” he said.
“Our guys have shown that this year.
“It's been a tough year for them for those young guys, they've had to come in and play in important games and they've alway come in and done their jobs.
“The Penrith club has done that for a long time, they've got a massive junior base that's been built from within and the Dragons, we're in a transition at the moment to get some of those young guys some game time and be permanent members of our side.”Internet Explorer Channel Network