Despite some distasteful trash talking at the scrum base and some disobedient novelty Steedens, another coat of restoration polish was applied to St George Illawarra on Sunday thanks to a blue-collar negation of the Wests Tigers.
Now with three straight wins, the famous Red V jersey is once again returning to being more palatable as a piece of sporting apparel rather than an effective tool for starting a fire.
In light of the discovery of life at Kogarah and The Gong, the condition of the Dragon Army has been upgraded from critical to stable. Collective considerations to switch to the greener pastures of supporting the Melbourne Demons have subsequently been canned, and earlier team goals set by the hierarchy, such as trying to cross the stripe more than twice in a game, have now been revamped to the upper crust aspiration of semi-final qualification.
One man who is now allowed back inside the leagues clubs of these respective heartlands due to this reawakening among the playing group is low-tariff coach Steve Price.
No doubt last night’s celebratory parmy and chips at the bistro defied the usual standards of club grub and tasted fairly sweet for the Dragons boss, a winner-winner-chicken dinner enhanced by the gutsy nature of the win at the SCG and the fact that it didn’t have to be consumed from under the pump.
On the back of an unlikely collection spree of competition points, the leanly-paid and highly-embattled coach is becoming familiar with operating in some unimaginable unicorn-filled fantasy world the likes of which he has never experienced.
That’s right, he’s tasted the clipboard-holder’s nirvana, a magical place where journalists don’t raise the possibility of a relationship with food stamps on a weekly basis and fellow folk don’t bemoan your existence on their club’s payroll on a daily basis.
Such treatment has been one of many demons that Price has had to constantly joust with since taking the keys at the Dragons.
To go with the around-the-clock speculation on his imminent knifing, there’s been one of the game’s highest derogatory meme counts on social media, plus a behemoth fan base with their full support behind him. To resign.
However, for all of the soul-tearing ability of these external pressures, probably the most debilitating hindrance has come from within.
Now I’m no Freud, but if devotion to a former ruler’s game plan is anything to go by, then I reckon Price has been biffing with that feisty old boiler known as self-doubt from day one in this highly scrutinised red-and-white hot seat of arse-combusting capabilities.
My no-frills psychoanalysis tells me that his own instinctive footy ideals have been regularly spurned from within, and then like a programmable novelty voice on a navigational device, his inner monologue speaks in the voice of Wayne Bennett and tells him to retain the status quo of playing the beige conservative-ball that served them so well in years gone by.
“I left a note on the kitchen table with your instructions for the weekend. Take out the bins, dust the blinds and play one-out error-free footy that makes Die Hard seem like The English Patient with its extended scenes. Keep it surly with the press and maintain the siege mentality. And stay out of my pantry!”
You guessed it. I reckon that even after he left for the Monopoly money of Nathan Tinkler, the waft of the supercoach has remained at the Dragons and consumed the ability of his replacement to break the mould.
However, with Price coming to the realisation in 2013 that he had to throw caution to the wind before he was thrown to the wolves, it may have finally begun a transition to coaching on his terms and sparked an attacking belief in the team to compliment their mega-sturdy defensive patterns.
It seems there is greater freedom to offload, to occasionally try and score points on plays other than the fifth tackle, plus a well-aimed rocket placed underneath Jamie Soward’s kicking game which has seen a tiny light appear in the tunnel for the Dragons fortunes and along with it, a pulse on Price’s stock value.
The week off for the representative round is ill-timed for the Dragons in terms of momentum, but it sets up a mouth-watering lead-in to what will now be a superb contrast of styles on Anzac Day against their partners-in-reinvigoration at the Roosters.
Sure, the unyielding domination of 2010 it certainly isn’t, and I’m adamant the chicken parmis aren’t cascading out of the bain maries at the respective clubs just yet. Price and the Dragons know they are only a loss or two away from having the team’s credentials back on council pick-up and the coach’s name linked with a role at Social Security.
But for Dragons fans, 2013 is not as bad as first thought. And at least for now the air is clear from the smoke of burning jerseys.