Softness is not an option for Dragons
DRAGONS back-rower Will Matthews bristles when reminded his fellow forwards were labelled soft earlier this year.
But what a difference 12 weeks can make.
That has the been the period Paul McGregor has been in charge since his predecessor Steve Price got the sack after some heavy losses.
The Dragons looked a far cry from top-eight material after a 29-10 defeat to the Rabbitohs in McGregor's first game as coach - the team's fourth consecutive heavy beating.
But since then the club legend known as "Mary" has rebuilt the club, with the Dragons only conceding one try against the Titans in its 34-6 win on Sunday.
The red and whites next face Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, in a sudden-death game for both teams, as they both strive to stay in top-eight contention with two rounds remaining.
"We're all tough players at this level, so it does hurt to get called soft," Matthews told APN.
"We're still the same forward pack now as we were back then.
"It was probably more a case of us taking the easy options at times."
That does not appear to be the case anymore, with McGregor a coach that is not afraid to speak his mind.
"He sets us a few targets at training each week which he wants us to achieve," Matthews said.
"One of our goals against the Titans was to keep them to single figures, and we did that which was really pleasing.
"Defensively, we wanted to force two errors from them each half and I think we managed to do that too."
Matthews did that on one occasion, injecting himself off the bench with plenty of enthusiasm to come up with a big hit on Mark Ioane and force an error.
The 26-year-old former Kyogle junior gave McGregor a glowing endorsement, following the coach re-signing at the club for a further three years last week.
Matthews has played 10 games since McGregor was given the reins back in round 12.
"My contract is up at the end of this year, but I want to re-sign because Mary's showed a lot of faith in me and that's given me a lot of confidence," he said.
"I worked with him for two years at the Illawarra Cutters and we built a good relationship there."
Matthews said he was looking forward to playing a do-or-die game against Brisbane at the intimidating Suncorp Stadium and going up against a forward pack full of representative talent.