McInnes set to rescue Dragons' slow start

Matt Encarnacion
Paul McGregor was left frustrated after his St George Illawarra side's loss to Penrith on Friday

St George Illawarra skipper Cameron McInnes could be back in the team next week - and his return can't come any quicker for coach Paul McGregor.

The joint-venture club have opened their NRL campaign with back-to-back defeats after blowing a 10-point lead with 16 minutes to go in a 32-28 loss to Penrith on Friday.

The deflating defeat came a week after the Dragons also bombed three tries in a close loss to Wests Tigers, leaving them 0-2 to start the season.

It is the fourth time in six years since McGregor took over midway through 2014 the team have kicked off the year with consecutive losses.

McGregor cut a frustrated figure after being overrun by the Panthers, blaming his team for conceding penalties at crucial times of the match.

"Not learning from last week is the most disappointing thing," he said.

"When you've got an opportunity on the tryline, and second or third play and you give away an easy penalty to work them up the field. It's not good enough."

The Dragons are now in danger of falling to their worst start under McGregor when they go on the road to face last year's grand finalists, Canberra, next week.

St George Illawarra have never lost their opening three games under his coaching.

However, the Red-V will be bolstered by the return of McInnes, who was initially looking at twelve weeks out when he underwent knee surgery in mid February.

Should he lace up the boots against the Raiders, it'll be week five.

Key second-rower Tariq Sims will also return after serving a one-game ban for dangerous contact.

"(McInnes is) a very good chance. Getting two players back, next week, of their calibre, definitely helps our football team," McGregor said.

Another positive for McGregor was the return of fullback Matt Dufty, who scored two tries in his first game back from a fractured cheekbone.

McGregor drew criticism last week for dumping rising star Zac Lomax after one game in the No.1 jersey in favour of Dufty.

"(Matt) certainly brings that excitement to us," McGregor said.

But he was critical of Dufty's positioning at a crucial junction in the second half which resulted in the Panthers earning a repeat set.

"He just didn't work quick enough because he was in the kick-chase team and smart footy from the opposition, found us out a little bit there," McGregor said.

"They got that repeat set, that hurts. But that's the first game for Matty for quite some time, so he'll build on that for sure."