The St. George-Illawarra Dragons are the competition surprise packets to start the NRL season after a 4-1 record, leading to speculation coach Paul McGregor is close to re-signing.
McGregor’s tenure as Dragons coach was under intense scrutiny in the offseason following a disappointing 2016 campaign.
However, the Dragons are breathing new fire to sit high on the ladder, with pundits wondering are they genuine finals contenders or pretenders?
With suggestions McGregor will have his future finalised by round 12, it’s important to examine the Red V’s current form and whether is it sustainable.
Since taking the reins in 2014, McGregor has only led the side to one finals appearance in 2015 with a 49% record of 31 wins and 32 losses.
Last year, the Dragons enjoyed just 10 wins, finishing 11th and missing the finals for the fourth time in the past five years. They scored only 341 points, just ahead of the wooden-spooners Newcastle Knights who recorded 305 points after winning a solitary game.
Criticism of a severe lack of creativity in attack behind marquee signing Gareth Widdop followed as the club cut fellow halves partner Benji Marshall.
However, five games into the season and St. George-Illawarra have already scored 128 points. New recruits Cameron McInnes and Paul Vaughn are proving their worth with outstanding form along with Widdop’s rediscovered form.
Behind Widdop, they’ve claimed noteworthy victories over the Penrith Panthers and reigning premiers Cronulla Sharks with St. George-Illawarra fans excited for a promising season campaign.
On the other hand, it might be too early to hand McGregor a new contract yet. Their other two wins came against a lacklustre Warriors and a struggling Wests Tigers side.
A gruelling gauntlet-like month of April will test them and reveal whether the Red V’s true finals chances with news superstar Josh Dugan is set to spend time on the sideline.
They take on an in-form Manly Sea Eagles side at Brookvale next Saturday afternoon before North Queensland (home), the Roosters (Anzac Day at Allianz) and Melbourne (home).
The retention of McGregor isn’t the only thing the Dragons need to consider though with a host of stars off contract at the end of the season including Josh Dugan, Jason Nightingale, Russell Packer and Widdop.
Only time will tell if the Dragons are up to the task and consistent enough to earn themselves an elusive finals spot.
We should have a clearer picture of where the McGregor’s side sits by Round 12 but Dragons management need to put off any contract talk with their head until then at the very least.