Beware fired-up Dragons, warns Marshall

Melbourne are the minor premiers and the competition favourites, and even his own Wests Tigers have won eight matches in a row, but five-eighth Benji Marshall says those milestones are irrelevant when it comes to his biggest threat for the premiership.

His opponents on Friday night, St George Illawarra, are still the team most likely, according to Marshall.

‘‘I still think they’re No.1,’’ Marshall said yesterday. ''In the big games, they know how to win. They’ve been there and they’ve done that and they’ve proved it.

‘‘They’ve been the benchmark for two years, apart from the few games they lost throughout the end of the year. They’re definitely a big, big threat, and in my eyes they’re No.1.’’

Marshall’s comments, just days before a clash between the two clubs, could be read as an attempt to place more pressure on the Dragons, who have turned their season around with consecutive victories just before the finals.

But he certainly talks a good case, maintaining even the Storm do not hold a candle to the threat posed by the Dragons.

‘‘Absolutely,’’ Marshall said.’'They [the Dragons] have been the benchmark for a long time, and they’ve got the same team. Not much has changed. With a bit of confidence behind them, even more so. They’ve started to find their mojo back in attack, and their defence has been rock solid. When you have those things working so well… it’s going to make it hard for us.

‘‘And any team that’s coached by Wayne Bennett, and with the squad that they have, they’re dangerous. He’s not hard to get motivated to play for. He’ll have them ready to go, he’ll have them fired up, and they’ll be full of confidence. They’ve found their confidence again, and that’s pretty much all that they were lacking a couple of weeks back. We respect them as a team, and we’re going to have to, because they’re going to be tough to beat this weekend.’’

A crowd of more than 50,000 is expected at ANZ Stadium on Friday night, with the two teams who played out a memorable clash for a spot in the grand final last year adding another chapter to their rivalry.

‘‘At the time it hurt,’’ Marshall said of that defeat. ‘‘It always hurts when you lose, especially by one point and in a semi-final, but I put that aside straight away … and haven’t thought about it since. It’s a new competition, new teams, new squads.’’

Even though the loser will likely get a second life, with two teams above them needing to lose in order for one of the Tigers or Dragons to be eliminated from the premiership, Marshall said the Tigers would treat it as a sudden-death encounter.

‘‘We’ve got to plan that we won’t [get another life],’’ he said.

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//’‘We’ve got to plan that we won’t [get another life],’’ he said.//

I think that’s the best way to go about it, you don’t want to lose momentum now either

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