Reagan Campbell-Gillard knows better than anyone how fierce Anthony Griffin is in driving a defensive structure into an NRL team.
In three seasons under Griffin at Penrith, the now Parramatta prop learned the mettle of the coach who is turning around the Dragons defence after just four NRL games.
During his seven NRL seasons as a coach at Brisbane and then the Panthers, Griffin amassed a 55.5 per cent winning record but crucially never had a team concede an average of more than 20 points a game over a season.
And remarkably, he’s on track for the same numbers at the Dragons this year.
The Saints have given up just 75 points in the first four rounds, after leaking 22 points a game last year and ranking second worst in the category the season before.
“They’re playing real, hardy football and that’s pretty much how Hook likes to coach as well,” Campbell-Gillard said before the Eels’ clash with the Dragons on Sunday.
“I know it’s going to be a massive challenge for us and will be won in the middle.
“Everything is through the middle with Hook so I’m sure our middles here at Parra will have our hands full but we’ll be up for the challenge.”
The familiarity for Campbell-Gillard extends from the coaching box to the Dragons’ front row as he is set to pack in against good friend Trent Merrin and his cousin Tariq Sims.
Merrin will play his 150th game for the Dragons in Sunday’s game at Bankwest Stadium but Campbell-Gillard is keen to spoil it.
“They’ve got Mez (Trent Merrin) and Paul Vaughan who is a really good mate of mine as well, so it’s just exciting you get to play against your mates and family as well,” he said.
“They’re on a good streak at the moment, we go back home on a Sunday afternoon so it should be a good game.”
The Eels are undefeated after the first four rounds of the competition with wins over Brisbane, Melbourne, Cronulla and Wests Tiger.
Last week’s 36-22 win over the Tigers was hard fought but it showed Campbell-Gillard how far they’ve come in 12 months.
“We probably lose that game (last year),” he said.