FIRE DOUSED | After returning to finals action in 2015, the St George-Illawarra Dragons struggled un...
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It might be hard for some Dragons fans to accept, but St George Illawarra's Jason Ryles is the form front rower in the NRL.
The Dragons may be struggling with a 1-4 start, but the highly-criticised prop can't be accused of not pulling his weight.
Ryles accepts he gave away the crucial extra-time penalty in the loss to Cronulla and had a "slow" performance in the opening defeat to Wests Tigers, but his contributions have otherwise been phenomenal.
NRL stats show Ryles leads his fellow props with the most runs (17) and tackles (34) per game and is ranked third in metres gained (140.2m).
He has thrown 17 offloads in his five games, more than double the second best of eight from Newcastle's Jesse Royal.
Ryles' fine form could thrust him back into representative calculations, ending a two-year absence from the NSW Origin side.
"I feel I'm playing my role in the team," said Ryles.
"I probably had a bit of a slow game against the Tigers but other than that I have certainly been pulling my weight.
"Those sort of things (rep teams) look after themselves if you're playing well at club level.
"I just want to get our season back on track."
Ryles will need to be at his bulldozing best on Saturday when the Dragons face the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium, both sides desperate for a win to keep touch with the top eight.
The Dragons are on a three-game losing streak, but had their chance to win every game before falling by seven, two and four points respectively.
It is the third time in four seasons the Dragons have started 1-4, last year they never hit stride and finished 13th but in 2005 the star-filled side recovered to be equal minor premiers.
Ryles knows they are capable of stringing wins together, but admits Saturday's game is crucial to their season.
"It's not so much playing for our season but it's getting to that stage," he said.
"It's certainly not the ideal way to start our season. We have only got ourselves to blame.
"It's not like we are getting beat by big margins, we're in most games by two or four points each week.
"While it is still not acceptable, we see that we are close.
"I'm confident we can turn it around with one win and then our confidence will be back straight away.
"We just have to keep working on the little things in our game and probably more so starting off the way we train instead of just going out there and playing off the top of our heads."