National News

Player changes won't break slump: McGregor

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor insists personnel changes aren't the solution to the Dragons' dipping NRL attack, despite hooking halfback Josh McCrone mid-game on Sunday.

The Dragons sunk to their fifth defeat in seven games against Parramatta, to leave the early competition leaders sixth on the ladder and now just two points clear of the Eels in ninth place.

The 24-10 loss also dropped their point-scoring average over the past seven matches to 15 points per match, well down on the 27 they scored each week over the first seven rounds of the competition

McGregor even went to the extent of bringing playmaker McCrone off the field in the final 15 minutes of Sunday's loss, as Taane Milne came off the bench into the centres, and utility Kurt Mann moved to the halves.

McGregor said that didn't represent the Dragons' long-term plan to turn things around.

"Changing players, is that the answer? Possibly not," McGregor said.

"Taane had been on the bench and he's quite an exciting player and we were really looking for some creation there.

"Kurt played really well a fortnight ago when he played in the halves when Gaz (Widdop) was out, so we wanted to see how he went at No.6 as well."

Instead, McGregor said, the key was returning to a far more patient attack that had been been the foundation of their game over the opening seven weeks.

According to Fox Sports Stats, the Dragons also rank only above Newcastle for forced line drop outs per game, highlighting McGregor's concerns about a lack of patience close to the line.

"Our support has been down in the past couple of weeks and our completion rates have been down," he said.

McGregor also insisted his team had not got complacent after their high-flying start to the competition.

"The boys definitely don't get ahead of themselves - the opposite actually," he said.

"They don't think anything comes easy. There's a lot of talent there but sometimes the confidence comes down pretty quickly.

"We've just got to get the belief there."

The Red V's start to the season has been eerily similar to 2015, where they sat first after 12 rounds, but dropped eight of their last 12 be knocked out in the first week of the finals.

However their saving grace in 2017 could be a friendly run home, which includes struggling Newcastle and Gold Coast twice, as well as South Sydney once.

Theoretically they need only win four of their last 10 to make this year's finals series.

"We've got enough talent to do well in the competition," McGregor said.

"We've just got to be confident in how we go about it."

© AAP 2017

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