The punters have written them off and contract negotiations are seemingly wearing them down but Josh Kerr is adamant Anzac Day is the perfect stage to turn the Dragons’ fortunes around.
The Red V arrive at Allianz Stadium on Tuesday with an unflattering 2-4 record but that’s exactly where they stood last year when they stunned the Roosters 14-12 on the back of a Ben Hunt masterclass.
“It’s not really a game you need to be coached for, we’re always up for it,” Kerr told NRL.com.
“The thing we need right now is this Anzac Day match, it’s not a skill-set thing this game it’s more about our desire to win and our effort and how much we’re going to turn up for each other as teammates.
“We have a pretty good record against the Roosters on Anzac Day and it’s a really good platform to slingshot us off for the season.”
Since the two sides launched the Anzac Day tradition in 2002, the Dragons hold a 12-8 advantage and a win in this year’s clash would be a huge boost for coach Anthony Griffin as he faces continued speculation over his future at the club.
Now in his fifth season at the Dragons, Kerr lines up in his second Anzac Day game, keen to avenge a 34-10 loss in 2021 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
When the whistle blows, you’re not playing for just our team, you’re playing for those people that didn’t get the chance to be nervous, they were jumping out of trenches and fighting for their country and their teammates.
“If we get the win here, it will be an important stepping stone,” he said.
“In the grand scheme of the season, it’s still early days. We talked about wanting to use the first few rounds as a time to build our identity as a team and this is a game that will prove how tough we are and how hard we’re willing to play.
“Hook’s our coach and he’s done a great job to hold his head up high considering what he’s going through at the moment.
“We’ve just got to start winning games and then all that external noise goes away.”
When Allianz Stadium falls silent just before kick-off in the ultimate mark of respect for those who have served our country, Kerr will link arms with his teammates and steel himself for an intense contest against a Roosters side also under pressure with a 3-3 record.
“It’s pretty emotional, I’ve been lucky to be a part of one. I remember going out there and my eyes were welling up, you all stand together and it’s an eerie, emotional silence,” Kerr said.
“There are thousands of people in a stadium and then suddenly it just goes quiet. You are pretty emotionally driven and after the Last Post plays and the minute of silence ends, you’re just ready to go, you don’t even need a warm-up.
“I get goosebumps when I think about it, I can’t wait to be a part of it again.
“When the whistle blows, you’re not playing for just our team, you’re playing for those people that didn’t get the chance to be nervous, they were jumping out of trenches and fighting for their country and their teammates.
“We’re doing that in a different form on Tuesday and the sense of knowing we’re about to do something pretty special is exciting.”
Fellow Dragon Jack de Belin lines up for the eighth time on Anzac Day in what has become a very important day for the 32-year-old and his family.
Representing his grandfather, Fred – the Balmain great who flew suicide missions over Germany with the RAAF – de Belin knows ladder positions count for nothing on the most solemn day on the rugby league calendar.
“It doesn’t matter how you are going in club form, it’s the easiest game to get up for,” de Belin told NRL.com.
“There’s so much on the line that you’re playing for, and it’s pretty special that on Anzac Day we get to play a game of football for the people and hopefully make the people that served for us proud.
“We only have to play footy for 80 minutes when you think of the people that went away and fought in the war before us, we’re doing nothing in comparison.
“My grandfather went away in World War II and served our country, so I definitely don’t take this game for granted.”