Dragons to send performance boss to Denver

Scott Bailey
The Dragons will savaged during the representative period

St George Illawarra will send their head of performance to Denver to monitor their representative stars in and around the controversial Test between England and New Zealand.

The Dragons are likely to have at least three players involved in the Test, including captain Gareth Widdop, inspirational prop James Graham and veteran winger Jason Nightingale.

The trio could then potentially have to back up just two days after returning to Sydney, against Parramatta on the Thursday night of round 16.

It will provide a brutal examination of the depth at the Dragons given four players will also take part in State of Origin II in Sydney and six others are expected to be picked in the Pacific Tests at Campbelltown on the same weekend as the Denver trip.

Coach Paul McGregor revealed on Monday that he'd send the club's head of athletic performance, Nathan Pickworth, with the players to the US to monitor their workload and wellbeing.

"We've got things in place," McGregor said.

"At the end of the day if Gareth and that go over to play and they're not right to play on the Thursday after it, they won't play.

"We're sending one of our performance staff over there, so that's the most important thing. We're managing it well."

The representative period shapes as a crucial one across the NRL after the Dragons retook the ladder lead with their 18-16 win over Canterbury on Monday.

Second-placed Penrith could have four Kiwis flying to Denver to go with their quartet of Origin representatives, while the Burgess brothers have also confirmed their intention to play for England from third-placed South Sydney.

Fourth-placed Warriors will also be decimated given their heavy dependence on the New Zealand national team, with coach Stephen Kearney already indicating he won't play players in round 16 who have travelled to Denver.

But it's unclear exactly how each team will approach the crucial mid-season month.

"We've got a really tight schedule over the next month," McGregor said.

"The players' prep is pretty good; they're really looking after themselves knowing what the schedule is.

"We'll just have to wait and look at our process we've got in place post each game."

Meanwhile the Bulldogs' loss on Monday narrowed the race at the bottom of the ladder to avoid the wooden spoon to two points.

After Parramatta claimed their third victory of the season, over North Queensland, they moved equal with Canterbury with wins but only behind on points given the Bulldogs have already had their bye.

The Cowboys are one win ahead on eight points, as are the struggling Sea Eagles and the Gold Coast who are on 10 courtesy of having had their bye.