The Dragons have serious injury problems throughout their squad and the club has elevated a group of youngsters before their time, among them a batch of New Zealanders and Kiwi-connected players.
The half/five-eighth combination has been changed repeatedly throughout the season, with Mark Gasnier who played at six early on out injured for four months, then Dean Young joining him sideline.
Jamie Soward transferred in from the Roosters as halfback. Rangi Chase, who went right through the New Zealand Rugby League's development system, has played outside him for the past four games, the longest-serving pairing the Dragons have had in the six and seven jerseys this season. Chase was a 2006 Junior Kiwi and played for the NZ 'A' team last year.
"They're definitely improving and they definitely feel comfortable playing with each other," Dragons coach Nathan Brown said of Aussie Soward and Kiwi Chase.
At centre is Chase Stanley, just turned 18, nephew of the former All Black Joe, born in Sydney and a local league junior. He was signed for one year but after 10 games in which he has scored five tries for a struggling team, the Dragons have started negotiations to keep him. Stanley has been bred through the Endeavour Park High School system, the Sutherland Shire school the most successful nationally in recent years. Endeavour beat the Wests Tigers-connected Keebra Park High on the Gold Coast in the national schools final in both 2005 and 2006.
Rangi Chase was at Keebra, along with Weller Hauraki who he grew up with in Dannevirke, Hauraki now with the Parramatta Eels.
On the Dragons bench are Lagi Setu, New Zealand born and with a background in rugby and raised in Australia, who has already played State of Origin for NSW under-19s; and Ben Ellis, a former NZ Schoolboys league rep from Turangi of Welsh and Lebanese parentage but keen to play for New Zealand.
Chase, Stanley, Setu and Ellis all debuted for the Dragons this season. So has Ricky Thorby, who went through the Levin Lions with Chase and then on to the Central Falcons in Bartercard Cup and the NZ Residents in 2006 before taking a punt on his future and crossing the Tasman to play for the Innisfail Leprechauns, from where he was picked up by the Dragons.
"They're all helping out and they've all been good," said Dragons coach Nathan Brown. "They probably all would have played some first grade this year but not as much as they already have. They have all improved with the experience."
Chase and Stanley in particular have attracted the coach's attention. "Chase Stanley is an outstanding young talent, he's still at school. Contributing how he has been suggests he's going to go far."
Rangi Chase was learning to run the game. "He's studying the video each week, looking to improve."
Both are contracted for 2008. "They're both players we'd like to keep further down the track," Brown said.
Chase, Ellis and Thorby have all indicated to the NZRL that they will continue to play for this country. Stanley and Setu who qualify to play for Australia or New Zealand have yet to decide allegiance.
Warriors coach Ivan Cleary is wary of the impact the Dragons' youngsters might have and is aware of the ability of Rangi Chase and Chase Stanley outside him. "They're both very good players, young guys don't have as much fear of making mistakes and can be very dangerous."
But they might also be susceptible to pressure because of that inexperience, he said.
Warriors wing Michael Crockett played with Rangi Chase at Wests Tigers when both were there last season. "He's very unpredictable but hopefully I've got a rough idea what he might do," Crockett said.