Date: August 20 2012
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA have vowed to ''rip into'' the Cowboys at WIN Stadium tonight - regardless of whether they're still in the picture for the finals.
While weekend victories to the Raiders and Gold Coast mean the Dragons retain a mathematical hope of making the play-offs, prop Trent Merrin said there was plenty at stake either way for the 12th-placed side.
''It's not the way we wanted to finish off but it's looking that way,'' Merrin said. ''We're not going to put our heads down and shy away, we're still going to rip in and finish our season off on a high.''
One favourable theme for the Dragons this year has been their impressive record at WIN Stadium and Kogarah's WIN Jubilee Oval.
The Dragons boast the best home record of any team in the NRL - managing eight wins from 10 games.
By contrast, they have also performed worse than any other team away, with only one victory from 11 attempts.
Adding to the occasion in Wollongong tonight is the fact that club stalwart Dean Young will play his second-last game at WIN Stadium.
''I've got a lot of respect for Dean Young and so do all the boys,'' Merrin said. ''I'm sure that they're all going to go out there and put in 80 minutes every game for the rest of the season just for him.''
A loss against North Queensland tonight would extinguish St George Illawarra's flickering play-offs bid.
''At the end, the staff here and the senior players group will look at the year as a whole and look at where they can go, but that's the furthest thing on our mind at the moment because we don't want to go loss, loss, loss to finish,'' Young said.
''There will be a review, but we've still got three tough games - two at home and one at Parramatta Stadium, which will be good.''
Cowboys forward Ray Thompson has been ruled out of the clash because of a shoulder injury and will be replaced by former Roosters rake Anthony Mitchell.
Cowboys assistant coach Terry Matterson said Thompson was still under strong consideration to play the finals. ''Obviously he's had some history there with the shoulder, so we're just going to wait until it settles down and make more of long-term decision next week,'' he said.
''We don't want to rule him out just yet and he doesn't want to as well. Ray's probably a bit too tough for his own good at times, but we've got to look after the kid and look into it.''
Thompson's omission from the Cowboys pack doesn't make them any less intimidating, according to Merrin. The NSW prop said there were ways around North Queensland's sheer size.
''They've got a rep forward pack so it's going to be big test for us and our boys in the middle but I've got confidence in our team and what we're capable of,'' Merrin said. ''You just try and play harder I think. You've just got to do your job.''
The Dragons will welcome back Matt Cooper from a hamstring injury after the former rep star trained all week, while Jamie Soward will retain his spot at five-eighth.
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