South Sydney coach Michael Maguire knew Gareth Widdop’s big money move to St George Illawarra would be a success – first hand experience told him so.
Maguire was an assistant under coach Craig Bellamy at Melbourne from 2004 to 2009 when a spindly kid from Halifax, West Yorkshire joined the Storm’s Under 18 program and says instinct told him Widdop was going to be a special player.
Now out of the shadow of Melbourne’s Big Three in Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, Widdop has spearheaded the Dragons’ charge to the top of the NRL ladder after the opening month of the NRL premiership.
But they face their biggest test of the season so far against the Rabbitohs at the SCG on Saturday night.
And Maguire know Widdop is the man he has to stop if Souths are to end their worrying three-game losing streak.
“He is a very good player, I had a lot do with him in Melbourne, he has added a hell of a lot to that team,” Maguire said.
“He was always a good player I only had him in his younger years but you could sense that he was going to be a good player.
“He had a big influence down in Melbourne. He has learnt from some of the best down there and he has brought that to St George.
“You have to understand his play and see what he does but we are pretty focused on what we need to do (to improve).”
Dragons fullback Josh Dugan returns from a knee injury for his first game of the year against Souths and says he is impressed from what he has seen from Widdop from the sidelines.
“Gareth Widdop has been a breath of fresh air for the club and has really taken that leadership role, I can’t wait to get out there and be a part of it,” Dugan said.
“He has taken that control and that was something we missed out on last year.
“I always knew he would coming from a side like Melbourne and the success they have had down there.
“I always knew he would bring some of those values from down there.
“It is only early days but hopefully that is signs of things to come.”