NRL Rd 18 - Dragons v Raiders
WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Cody Ramsey of the Dragons celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round 18 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Canberra Raiders at WIN Stadium on September 12, 2020 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The Dragons had a fantastic start to the season, but it fell away dramatically during the second half. Here is the club's season review.

Pre-season predicted finish: 15th
Actual finish: 11th
Record: Eight wins (-142)

2021 Season snapshot

The Dragons 2021 season can be broken up into two parts: BB (before BBQ) and AB (after BBQ). As ridiculous as it sounds it will absolutely define their season.

At no point in the season did the Dragons look like a genuine finals contender but a string of positive results had them in the mix prior to the incident.

Dragons fans questioned the appointment of Anthony Griffin as coach and I honestly don't think that question was answered in 2021.

The club's decision to allow club captain Cameron McInnes to walk across the Shire to join the Sharks started the season on a huge negative.

Star player: Ben Hunt

Ben Hunt is, hugely unfairly, one of the game's most criticised players. That all goes back to reports re the massive salary he signed on for.

He was the Dragons best in 2021, comfortably! He started the season brilliantly and was arguably best on ground despite their Round 1 loss.

Fighting back from injury he laid on 13 try assists, scored five tries, ran for over 100 metres a game on average, kicked for almost 285 metres per game and tackled at 82%.

Hunt was the heart and soul of the Red V for the duration of the season and lead the club brilliantly. A brilliant season for the Dragons number seven.

BEN HUNT
Halfback
Dragons
2021 SEASON AVG
0.7
Try Assists
0.4
Tries
245.3
Kick Metres

Breakout star: Tyrell Sloan

In 19-year-old Tyrell Sloan, the Dragons have an absolute star in the making. I still can't wrap my head around how he only played five times this season.

In those five appearances, the speedster created a series of highlights that should excite fans of the club.

Six tries, two try assists and 13 tackle breaks look like an entree of things to come. With a full off-season training in the role his 2022 should be even better.

Rugby League Outlaws break down the talking points in their Season Finale

Positives

Encouraging start: The Dragons started the season with four wins a loss from their opening five games. If a Cody Ramsay drop ball had been judged differently I dare say it would have been five from five.

The Dragons entered the season as finals longshots. There were a mountain of questions. The Dragons largely answered those questions early on.

Ultimately it wouldn't last but across that opening month, the Dragons threatened to have plenty of pundits looking for a side to enjoy with their serving of crow.

Andrew McCullough: It's not often you can highlight a single player's performance here but Andrew McCullough deserves a shout out.

Signed by the club in February and immediately became the Dragons number one choice at number nine, especially with McInnes likely to move to 13 prior to his season-ending injury.

He helped lead the way in the absence of McInnes, and then Hunt through injury, playing 21 times and making over 1000 tackles at a ridiculous 97%.

On and off the field the former Origin hooker was a model of consistency.

ANDREW MCCULLOUGH
Hooker
Dragons
2021 SEASON AVG
47.4
Tackles Made
0.1
LB Assists
0.1
Try Assists

Negatives

That BBQ: This will follow the Dragons until kick-off in 2022. Despite being locked into a tight Covid bubble, a group of Dragons players decided to celebrate an unimpressive win via an illegal gathering.

They lost their rep prop for the season, and the future, while a host of players served suspensions over the following weeks.

It dominated headlines. It made the club look weak in their response. They wouldn't win a single game after that moment.

Absolute madness.

Head scratcher recruitment decisions: What on Earth were the club thinking in allowing McInnes to move away from the club? He was their best player in 2019 and 2020. Not to mention their captain.

Bringing George Burgess out of retirement is a headscratcher but given what he produced in the NRL for Souths, it's a risk perhaps worth taking.

The signing of 31-year-old Josh McGuire made little sense at the time. The Cowboys are in a rebuild and despite his experience were quick to sign off.

Matt Dufty was, at the time, the Dragons best attacking player and after one of the individual performances of the season was told he wouldn't be offered a contract.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 21: Matt Dufty of the Dragons makes a break which lead to him scoring a try during the round 19 NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the St George Illawarra Dragons at 1300SMILES Stadium on July 21, 2018 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Given the emergence of Sloan, I can see why this decision was made, but the way it became so public after Dufty's try and try assist blitz saw fans start petitions to re-sign their number one.

Season Grade: C

On paper the Dragons exceeded expectations. They really should have played finals footy. They had the talent and produced results, albeit sparingly.

Again you need to go back to the infamous BBQ to sum up their season. What were players thinking? Paul Vaughan lost his contract and players were forced to serve suspensions.

The fact that the Dragons have tapped Tariq Sims on the shoulder, the player supposedly not invited to said BBQ due to thoughts he would tell players to pull their heads in, worries me hugely.

From the outside looking in there look to be cultural problems. Speaking with close friends who support the Dragons, those fears come from the fan base also.

The Red V came much closer to playing finals footy than many, myself included, expected and therefore obtain a pass mark. Just!

 

1 COMMENT

  1. I’ve been supporting this club since 1972 and have never most disillusioned or disgusted than in the last 10 years. So sick of the gross incompetence shown right through this amateur bunch of clowns from the board through the coaching staff. Player purchases by Griffin are deplorable and the board are useless and all need to be sacked including Craig Young. We are the only club where member cannot elect the board. We have no say at all.

    I’m thinking of abandoning them as there is no future as nothing will change. Even getting rid of Griffin will matter little if the board remains and Millward remains.

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