SHELLHARBOUR'S Trent Merrin is the first to admit St George Illawarra's performance against Canberra on Friday "wasn't good enough".
After three strong performances on the trot, which included two wins and a tight loss to the Roosters, the Dragons appeared to have gotten their season back on track.
However, all of that went out the window in the nation's capital recently.
"Last week as a step back from the previous couple of games," Merrin said.
"Obviously letting them [Canberra] score 18 unanswered points in the first half is unacceptable.
"It's not what we had been building towards as a group.
"Consistency is everything in rugby league and it's been our Achilles heel this year, shown by our week-to-week performances.
"We've assessed the Canberra game thoroughly and established areas we need to improve , which all starts this week against Manly."
The 239-game NRL veteran forward knows consistency isn't restricted to matches but also in their preparation.
"It's crucial we stay consistent in our preparation and stick to what has been working well for us," the 30-year-old said.
"We need to continue to gradually build one week at a time.
"We were probably guilty of thinking we were going better than we actually were after a few strong games.
"It's important we stay humble after those wins and learn from the losses.
"It's an area we zoned in on this week and I'm confident you'll see a much-improved Dragons team this Sunday."
Merrin believes that all stems from every individual doing their role for the team to the best of their ability - especially on the defensive end.
"We have a great pack here at the club, with every single one of us capable of carrying the ball up and offloading it," the former NSW State of Origin forward said.
"By doing this, it creates a better shape for our halves and outside backs to play off - as shown in those couple of wins.
"Then on the flip side, the biggest thing for us at the Dragons is our defence.
"Every team up the top of the ladder has shown they are able to defend against their handling errors, penalties and repeat sets, due to the new six-again rule.
"If we can all make those tackles and work for each other, I know we can grind out more wins."
Grinding is nothing new to Merrin, who has had to work hard to reestablish himself the Red V's side after returning from Leeds in the English Super League.
"It's been a great challenge for myself and I expected that when I returned from the Super League," Merrin, who played 27 games for the Rhinos, said.
"It's a tough game the NRL and to return from the Super League was a challenge I was excited to take on.
"I knew I had my work cut out to even make the 17-man squad.
"I did that at the start of the season but knew I was a long way off where I wanted to be.
"Then COVID-19 took over and we all had to work hard individually behind the scenes.
"It's a personal goal of mine to keep chipping away and as I'm not getting any younger, I know I've got to keep working hard, learning from our staff and put my best foot forward.
"As a team, I'm prepared to play any role Mary [coach Paul McGregor] wants me to play.
"Be that starting or on the bench or in different positions, I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to help this club get back to the top - I'd do anything for this club."
Merrin, after starting at lock last week against the Raiders, will shift to the bench against the Sea Eagles, to accommodate skipper Cam McInnes' move to the back of the scrum - with Ben Hunt at hooker.
"Manly always have strong momentum through the middle and even though Addin Fonua-Blake won't be there, I'm sure someone else will step up and fill the void," he said.
"They're always a challenging team, who are hard to handle.
"We will do homework on them in the coming days but our main focus is on ourselves.
"We didn't play the full 80 minutes last week, so we're all keen to rectify that this Sunday.
"We showed against the Roosters just what we are capable of if we turn up and compete on a consistent basis."
Merrin will be joined in the 17-man squad by fellow Group Seven products Euan Aitken (Shellharbour), Adam Clune (Albion Park-Oak Flats), Jackson Ford and Tariq Sims (Gerringong) - with the latter making his return from a wrist injury.
"Taz [Sims] is a massive gain for us and he's been working really hard to get his body right," Merrin said.
"He adds a lot to the squad, with his ability to run the ball but also muscle up in defence - his inclusion will go a long way to helping us secure our third win of the year."