By MITCHELL DALE
FORMER St George-Illawarra try-magnet Nathan Blacklock has warned the under-achieving Dragons must rediscover some passion before they can deliver on the potential often promised but never fully delivered.
Blacklock, headed to UK Super League club Hull after eight seasons at Kogarah, said the club has lost the spirit that used to run through the veins of players from past eras.
"I just don't think we had as much passion as the old Dragons sides," Blacklock said.
"Players like Nathan Brown, Mark Coyne and Jeff Hardy ? they were very passionate.
"You get energy off being around those guys, but we need a few more players like that on the field."
Blacklock, who was guest-speaking at yesterday's Aboriginal education and cultural expo at Coffs Harbour Education Campus, rated pulling on the St George jersey as a highlight of 10 seasons in first grade.
Blacklock represented Australia and NSW Country in that time, but his proudest moment remains wearing the famous red V.
So you can imagine how it would have troubled him to see the passion dying in the Dragons.
"It was a bit frustrating," he said.
"It was a bit like a car with only two or three cylinders firing ? it is not going to go too far."
Blacklock will spend Christmas in his home town, Tingha, before flying to England on December 28.
"I can't wait to get out there and play with Hull and enjoy myself," he said.
"It has been a long season with the injuries I had this year.
"I wasn't happy about how my time at the Dragons finished up because of those injuries."
The UK Super League has long been seen as place for Australian players to comfortably see out their playing days and earn a nice little nest egg.
But Blacklock hasn't given up hope of returning to the NRL after his two years at Hull.
"I'm not finished yet," he said.
"I would love to come back to the NRL, but I'll see how things go."
The 28-year-old was yesterday delivering the message to Coffs Coast indigenous people that anything is possible with a bit of hard work, especially given the education opportunities now available to them.
"There are a lot of opportunities for them if they are prepared to work hard," he said.