McGregor cautious on Dragons' way ahead

Scott Bailey
The Dragons' top spot has given coach Paul McGregor the room to rest players during a tough period

Paul McGregor will take a cautious approach with his St George Illawarra representative stars over the next month as they tackle one of the most gruelling schedules in the NRL.

McGregor is likely to have five players in Origin camp, four in Denver for the controversial Test and another five playing in the Pacific matches at Campbelltown from his extended squad next Saturday night.

It means a short turnaround for all into Thursday night's round 16 clash with Parramatta if they do back up, with the Origin stars turning out for their fifth game in 22 days and the Denver Test players appearing just two days after they land at home.

But with a two-point lead at the top of the table, McGregor says the Dragons could now take a far more sensible approach to their players' workloads with a spot in the eight already all but guaranteed.

"It's a bit like Melbourne in the past," McGregor said.

"They've been in a position to rest guys at important stages because they were so high on the ladder every year.

"It does give you a little bit of scope to look into the back end of the year more.

"You've got to go into the finals peaking, not spent. We're mindful of all that."

This period, with players coming in and out of the Dragons' squad, has caused their downfall in two of the past three years.

But the Saints aren't taking any chances in 2018.

High performance manager Nathan Pickworth will travel to Denver with English stars Gareth Widdop and James Graham, along with potential Kiwi reps Leeson Ah Mau and Jason Nightingale.

McGregor will also leave a call on their availability to the likes of Pickworth, taking it out of the players' own hands.

"I've got a high performance manager that looks after all our post activity and most of our planning. I lean on him in these important occasions," McGregor said.

"If the boys approach it in the right way and prepare in the right way, then minimal risk will take place.

"The players will always want to play that next game.... Sometimes you've got to take it out of their control a little bit and be more on what's needed for the club."