The Dragons started the 2018 season breathing fire, then after a mid-season slump smashed the Broncos in round one of the finals.
How will they fare in 2019?
Eddie Blacker (2019), Hayden Lomax (2019), Lachlan Maranta (2019), Steven Masters (2019), Corey Norman (Parramatta Eels, 2021), Jonus Pearson (Brisbane Broncos, 2020), Mikaele Ravalawa (Canberra Raiders, 2020), Jason Saab (2022), Korbin Sims (Brisbane Broncos, 2021), Lachlan Timm (Melbourne Storm, 2019)
Leeson Ah Mau (New Zealand Warriors), Reuben Garrick (Manly Sea Eagles), Patrick Herbert (released), Nene Macdonald (North Queensland Cowboys), Kurt Mann (Newcastle Knights), Jason Nightingale (retired), Hame Sele (Penrith Panthers)
The Dragons were the form team of the competition for the first half of the NRL season. They won their opening six fixtures, and 12 of their opening 15 games.
Unfortunately, their form suffered in a big way throughout and after the Origin period bringing them right back to the pack.
Four members of their forward pack played Origin last season and it’s no surprise that the Dragons big men were having an early season field day, allowing Gareth Widdop to start the season in Dally M medal-winning form.
The Dragons did manage to turn their amazing start into a finals appearance but will be disappointed not to have challenged for the top four.
A massive week one win over the Broncos really raised hopes for the Red V, only for it all to come crashing down in ridiculous circumstances against the Bunnies in week two of the finals.
The Dragons can be happy with their 2018 efforts however it remains a case of what could have been.
Best Signing: Corey Norman
The rumblings of a potential Eels exit for Corey Norman grew louder late last year but I’m still surprised that he has ended up across Sydney as a Dragon.
Norman will either slot into the halves with Ben Hunt or will play fullback, with the former looking more likely.
He is an incredible talent who really has not lived up to his undoubted potential. He and the club will hope that a Red V jersey will unlock what we should have seen two years ago.
There is nothing Norman can’t do, however, he will have to fully apply himself after two seasons in the headlines for the wrong reasons.
With Widdop looking to move to England sooner rather than later, Norman is a straight swap. He will play a huge role in 2019 for the Dragons.
Young Gun/One To Watch: Zac Lomax
19-year-old Zac Lomax is a short-priced favourite for the breakout player of the year, such is his ridiculous talent.
Having played four times already for the Dragons, the hype on Lomax is huge. He can play anywhere across the back line but will likely play on the wing in the early rounds.
A goal-kicking speedster with a massive frame, there is a lot to like here. With a full off-season in the gym as part of the full-time squad, he is likely to be an absolute monster by round one.
Most Important Player: Gareth Widdop
The Dragons will be hoping that their main man is able to commit fully after making it very public his intention is to return to England, as soon as 2020.
Widdop is likely to shift to fullback, where he played for England in the World Cup, to accommodate the arrival of Corey Norman.
The Englishman is one of the competition’s elite play-makers and should handle the shift to fullback with ease.
If he can start the season as he did last year, the Dragons will be set up for a top-four finish.
Recruitment Grade: C
Corey Norman is the big name signing and will slot straight into the first-grade side. Korbin Sims is the other big signing and will add some size off the bench.
Outside of the two above players, the Dragons have recruited for depth.
Lachlan Maranta has plenty of NRL experience from his time at the Broncos and could be in the early setup but I can’t see them overlooking their freakish young players.
The Dragons have a side capable of anything and didn’t really need to hit the open market hard. The two players they have added will improve the squad.
I can see the Dragons finishing anywhere from 3rd to 10th.
The amount of talent in this squad is ridiculous. They have an all representative forward pack with four Origin certainties and an England mainstay.
Widdop, Hunt and Norman are all extremely talented players who can produce absolutely anything on their day.
Their centres are weapons, their young wingers are electric. They have a hard working and very talented number nine.
That said, the Dragons are a side who can put 50 on a contender only to lose by 30 the next week to a side running last.
Norman is rocks or diamonds, Hunt is a confidence player, and their best player in Widdop is going to play out of position.
Surely there’s enough here to play finals footy. Anything less than mid-September footy is a failure for this squad.
The Dragons will be watching on nervously re JDB.
I’m confident that the Dragons will make the eight but with their three attacking players capable of game ratings of 10 or 3, it’s hard to predict the consistency needed for a top four run.