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26 Apr 2018 2:33
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby League

    Widdop's flying start to the NRL season

    Statistics show that St George-Illawarra five-eighth Gareth Widdop deserves to be spoken about as the form player of the NRL this year.

    - article from

    His playmaking partner Ben Hunt might be lapping up all the plaudits - but the numbers show St George-Illawarra five-eighth Gareth Widdop deserves to be considered the form player of the NRL.

    Heading into the southern Sydney local derby, Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan made no secret of his side's intention to target the Dragons' in-form halves at WIN Stadium on Friday night.

    The laidback pairing of Hunt and Widdop have hit the ground running to have their side humming at 5-0.

    Hunt has largely been credited for turning around the Dragons' fortunes since his arrival, however statistics show Widdop deserves to be spoken about as the best player in the competition.

    After five rounds the Englishman is not only the equal leader for the Dally M (along with Newcastle's Mitchell Pearce and Kalyn Ponga), he leads the league in almost all of the major attacking stats.

    Accord to Fox Sports Stats, he leads the league for points scored (62) and goals (29).

    He's first for try assists (nine) and equal first for linebreak assists (eight).

    In all, Widdop has had a hand in 98 of the Dragons' 154 points in the opening five rounds.

    For comparison's sake, Widdop's 98-point contribution is greater than what eight teams have scored in total so far this season.

    Asked if he planned to send one of his forwards at Widdop and Hunt, Flanagan said: "I'd like to think I've got six of them that go at them.

    "They probably replicate what the Dragons are about at the moment.

    "They're working well with each other. They're confident and when they get the football in their hands, they're dangerous.

    "So we need to counter that, we need to keep the football away from them, we need to put them under pressure and we need to make them make tackles."

    Over the first five weeks, Hunt and Widdop have looked like they're played together for years.

    Not only have has Hunt eased the workload and released Widdop to play his natural game, they've looked dangerous when they both pop up on the same side of the field.

    Coach Paul McGregor described the Dragons' 2018 squad as their best balanced in a long time.

    "We've got a halfback to compliment Gareth, we've got an experienced player, an Australian player (Hunt)," McGregor said.

    "With James (Graham) there, who is all about winning, he knows what it takes.

    "For him to be out there to close out games is very important to us as well, with his leadership and the standards he sets.

    "With the addition of those two guys in addition to what we had last year, experience around (Jack) de Belin, (Paul) Vaughan, (Cameron) McInnes and our edges, they know what it takes to win close games."


    * The Dragons have started the season 5-0 for the first time in their history as a joint venture. Illawarra never started the season at 5-0, while St George did so four times (1927, 1959, 1985 and 1993).

    * Head to head, St George-Illawarra have won 21 matches, Cronulla 19 with one draw in 2001.


    © 2018 NZN, NZCity

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