Dragons Contingent Ready For Battle
The Dragons sent an ominous warning to their NRL rivals when they went on a rampant six-game winning streak that immediately stamped their claims as genuine premiership heavyweights.
But while players such as Euan Aitken and Cameron McInnes have hit career-best form, and the explosiveness of Matt Dufty and Ben Hunt has given them an array of attacking flair, it's the ruthless juggernaut of the Dragons forward-pack that has been the key to their early season dominance.
So much so, they will have a contingent of representatives donning the sky-blue jersey this Wednesday night with Paul Vaughan, Jack de Belin and Tyson Frizell earning selection in the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues side, while Tariq Sims has been named as 18th man.
"It means everything to me [because] last year I don't think I was ready to play, it was just more [about] going to a new club to prove myself again but this year I feel ready, and It's a dream come true for me and words can't describe the feeling," Vaughan told NSWRL.com.au.
"It's pretty cool when you think about it [because] it's the pinnacle of Australian sport and obviously to finally get my turn now I couldn't be more excited and over the moon," de Belin added.
"It's been a childhood dream and to be able to fulfil that is amazing."
For Sims, the resilient back-rower has been knocking on the door of representative selection in recent years, but two severe leg injuries derailed his Origin aspirations and casted a shadow of uncertainty over his playing future in Rugby League.
He was on the verge of being named 18th man for the Blues under Ricky Stuart in 2012, but a broken leg in the final game before the team announcement ruined his debut Origin selection.
But such is the magnitude of his incredible perseverance that the 28-year-old refused to give up on his Origin dream, and has his sights firmly set on running out for the Blues in the near-distant future.
"My parents come to mind when I think about [my injury] because I had two pretty badly broken legs and it's one of those where some people may pack it in and try something else, but I've had the support of family and friends and a lot of different coaching staff who have helped me along the way," Sims said.
"A bit of mental strength comes into it. You ride the highs and lows of winning and losing every week but if you add an injury it adds to the challenge of rehabilitation.
"Now being so close [to Origin] it gives me a massive drive...I want to help achieve a massive goal in my career and hopefully one day I can run out for the Blues."
While Sims will play a crucial role off the field for the Blues and craft his trade in a forward-pack that boasts unrivalled tenacity and a brutal defensive mindset, his teammate Frizell will be looking to add his own unique spark to a youthful Blues side that boasts 11 debutants.
But while he will be looking to take on a leadership role after some scintillating performances in his four Origin appearances, Frizell admits he is most looking forward to watching Vaughan and de Belin live out their childhood dream after years of relentless hard-work and sacrifice.
"You get to see what they do week in week out alongside you at club-level, so for those players I know they're going to come in and not only do a job but they're going to make a difference in the team and I'm looking forward to them making their debuts," Frizell said.
"The consistency in [their] game [and what] those two players have brought in the past...they've stepped up and are a key reason why we've been going well at the Dragons."
Having built a reputation as one of the most formidable and menacing forward-packs in the game this season, it will only be a matter of time before the Dragons pack make their collective presence felt on Wednesday night as a new era dawns for NSW.