SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 29: James Graham of the Dragons and team mates look dejected during the round 20 NRL match between the Sydney Roosters and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Allianz Stadium on July 29, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Since Round 10 of the NRL competition, the Dragons have lost five matches, enjoyed a bye and beaten the Eels, Dogs, Eagles, Raiders and Cowboys. Hardly a record to write home about considering the form of their victims.

The last win the Dragons mustered of any real significance was on May 6th in a solid victory over the Storm at Jubilee Oval. Over the last ten weeks, their credible performance in the high scoring loss to Melbourne at AAMI Park, is perhaps their next best effort.

After such a stunning start that saw eight wins from their first nine matches and only a loss to the equally hot Warriors blotting the copybook, the following three months have headed down a familiar path.

Convincing losses against genuine title contenders South Sydney, Melbourne and most recently the Roosters, have the Dragons’ fans quivering; concerned that the embarrassing fade out of 2017 is playing out all over again.

The entire rugby league community is noticing, interested and hypothesising as to the cause.

The current slump doesn’t quite match the derailment of their campaign twelve months ago. Flying high after thirteen rounds, the Dragons bumbled their way to ninth place at season’s end with eight losses in their last twelve games.

Surely 2018 will be different? The Red V actually has a ripping run home; with every opponent outside the eight except for the Warriors who sit precariously in eighth.

Even if St George Illawarra do right the ship and find a string of victories against Parramatta, West Tigers, Canterbury and Newcastle in the run home, the competition will not yet be convinced. Their record against top eight teams produces that scepticism.

Five wins from eleven against top eight opposition is borderline, with most of those victories coming very early in the season.

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There is a reasonable body of evidence to suggest the Dragons may be teetering on the brink, yet the prudent question is why? The significant drop in performance late in the year across the last two seasons appears too familiar to be co-incidental.

Depending upon to whom you speak, theories vary. Questions about Paul McGregor’s coaching credentials lack merit considering the stellar play of the side earlier in the season. NRL coaches don’t forget how to coach in the space of three months.

What they do have difficulty achieving is drawing consistent performances from their squads, something McGregor has grappled with since the Origin period.

The showpiece of the representative calendar saw five Dragons involved and placed expected stress on the squad, particularly in the forwards. Jack De Belin, Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims did their State proud and Ben Hunt was again selected for the Maroons in all three games.

Just as the Broncos, Storm and Roosters have historically experienced lean patches through the Origin period with significant representation, the Dragons could most definitely be excused for a clunky performance or two. Yet that was then and this is now. There doesn’t appear to have been any rejuvenation in their play or restoration of their season since the series.

Injuries and suspensions are often cited as viable reasons for struggling teams and whilst never an excuse, can certainly be important factors. The Dragons have been far from belted with misfortune in 2018 and look to be injury and suspension free leading into Round 21.

In fact, 13 members of the squad have played in 15 or more games this season.

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Some accuse the Dragons of possessing a soft underbelly or a weakness of fortitude. That too seems unlikely considering their roster. Add Englishmen James Graham and Gareth Widdop, veteran Jason Nightingale and aggressive young superstars Matthew Dufty and Euan Aitken to their representative talent and the last thing the Dragons could be labelled is physically or mentally frail.

Perhaps it’s just a growing curse; a potentially freakish repeat of sinking form with no real rhyme or reason to explain it, or does the much maligned Ben Hunt bear much of the blame? That doesn’t wash with me either, as his combination with Widdop as a foil was potent early in the year.

Whatever the reason, the Red V faithful grow ever more frustrated, after looking like world beaters two seasons in a row and limping home.

Personally, I lean more towards the need for adjustments to pre-season preparations. The players again hit the ground running in March and April, and it mirrored their phenomenal start of 2017. By mid-season on both occasions, the Dragons began to show signs of fatigue and the spark went missing.

There does appear to be an issue with longevity and sustenance when it comes to the Dragons and perhaps planning a more Melbourne-like slow build throughout a season, will result in some tweaks to the pre-season regime.

Whilst 2018 is far from a write-off at this point, the turnaround would want to come quickly and before a top four spot slips away. I won’t death knell the Dragons just yet, lingering images of their early season form are too impressive, but if things do continue to slip away it will be another missed opportunity for the storied club.

22 COMMENTS

  1. The answer is simple and in two points. One they started losing when McGreggor lost his nerve and went back to the old tried and true (failure of a) plan of pumping it one out up the ground. The Dragons dont have the forwards to do this at all, despite what media personalities, who haven’t done their homework, say. Secondly, the ruck is 100% slower since the crackdown by the refs stopped. That’s why Storm and Roosters are coming storming home. Its a shame for the whole competition but it seems neither the NRL nor the Dragons have strong leaders.

    • looks like youve been watching the rubbish which is NRL 360. Look, youve even picked out the examples kent used to hammer home his point.

  2. Looks like the Broncos must have lent their jerseys to St Choke last night, that had dragons written all over it against the bulldogs.

    Another flop of a year coming up, sure they’ll make the eight, but will be canon fodder for the top 4 and will be lucky to win their first (and only) finals game. Luckily this weekend they play another team on a rapid slide to oblivion.

    Get rid of Mary and get an outside coach.

    • Yeah Mary talks a good game, but results are starting to tell a better story. We need a coach who can attract good players. Maybe we need Trent Robinson who can attract players that play for free!

  3. Robinson has been resigned IIRC and why would he leave the rorters with their bottomless cap. I don’t know who else to go for, but it cannot be an former club player. Hasler leaves behind carnage when he’s finished, what about Henry or chase Green, doubt Siebold would be interested. Mary says he has the team he wanted, well he may have the forwards but it’s our backline that lacks heavy hitters. We need wingers like Radradra and Addo-Carr, we need a centre like Mitchell. Nightingale has to retire, keep Dufty, McDonald, Aitken and chase a centre and winger.

    • You always speak plenty of sense.

      Unfortunately Saints are on a different wavelength. I still can’t understand why Lafai was re-signed for a further 3 years last year. One of the worst centres in the game, but the dragons hierarchy rate him for some reason.

      Last year for Nightingale – surely they can see that one……

  4. McGregor has no idea how to coach a football team, two prime examples are – 1. After a recent loss McGregor said in a press conference I was happy with their effort, we out enthused them towards the end of the match.
    2. McGregor brought on Jason Nightingale after 5 minutes due to a forward being injured and left him as a roving forward for the whole match and the funniest thing I have ever heard was when I visited my 90 year old Grandmother in a nursing home straight after that match the first thing she said to me was ” what was Jason Nightingale doing playing as a forward ? ” My Grandmother said to me am I loosing my marbles? I said no Grandmother, the coach McGregor put Jason in as a replacement forward, that’s how much he knows about the game, then my 90 year old Grandmother said ” he just has NO IDEA “

    • Great story.

      There are plenty of those type of McGregor examples every season.

      His press conferences are a dead set comedy routine – he is definitely taking the piss

      • He talks the same cr@p that Price did after every loss. Very frustrating to see them implode the same way year-after-year. At least they’ll make the semis this year I suppose.

  5. Hmmmm. Took a little longer this year but I see the “loyal” drags fans have started death-riding old Mary again.
    Apart from the odd positional brain snap as with Nightingale, he’s not out on the paddock. The mergers look flat and out of puff after their customary shot out of the blocks. Ironically for them, and weird as it may sound, the problem may actually be that they’ve had such a dream run with injury. The core 17 have played nearly every round, hence one of the clubs to use least players, and when the origin workload is added to the majority of their pack the result is a tired looking bunch that are starting to lose the middle 1/3. That was their strength early on but both Souths and now the chooks have owned them up the middle. It’s forced them to go wide, where apart from a bit of spark from Dufty they don’t have much at all. There’s no time for a freshen up when they are struggling to hang on to the all important 4th spot even if they do have an easier run home. They don’t have great depth to afford that luxury. Gone for 2018 is the call.

    • Wow sensible reply from you for once. Unless they improve 50% they’ll be making up the numbers in the finals and wont finish top 4 that’s for sure.

      • That’s doubtful and will mean little in the end. Best your lot can hope for is to limp into 4th and face the pretty hot chooks for another spanking or worse still, a road trip to Melbourne. Your anxiety and frustration at yet another unravelling is understandable but this was all to predicable. I wouldnt swap the sharks situation for the merged venture’s for sure but at least we’re not trying to crucify a coach and acknowledge improvement will be needed to figure.

        • “Your anxiety and frustration at yet another unravelling is understandable but this was all to predicable”

          haha you really are delusional the dragons beat the sharks TWICE with ease and you still dribble. At the start of the year you were so confident that the sharks would be in the top 4. No matter what you say the dragons have had a better year than your sharks. Unless there is another pep tide scandal shark won’t win another comp.

        • And you better hope that sharks don’t play the broncos in the finals because they will beat them for the 3rd time this year hahaha

        • Glancing at your frantic and as usual childish reply I can see who’s more relaxed about the back end of this season pal. As has always been the case, premierships are not about rounds 1-10. Surely you get that after last season and now this. Beating Cronulla twice in the first 5 rounds counts for zero now. I reckon most sharks fans would welcome a clash with the merged venture in the finals on current form. The mantle of chokers sits perfectly with the mighty red and whites. Looking forward to the next few weeks as the paranoia takes a grip at Kogarah Priceless.

        • Typical response from the Girl Scout bbbj. Real teams don’t lose to the broncos TWICE at the end of the year hahaha what is your excuse for that?

        • Yeah champ. Drags are having a great year. Losing twice to Brisbane is rough but going down twice to the Warriors is boarding on a joke. Suggest you might just slip back under your rock and munch away on your humble pie. The merged venture are imploding as usual and can start booking flights around a back door straight sets exit yet again. Love it.

  6. The Dragons have to win 1 out of the next 5 matches to make the semis. On current form even that’s a hard task. Let’s say they do make the semis they will be knocked out in the first match, so another wasted season for McGregor. There is only 1 option, get rid of McGregor this year.

  7. Well dragons fans if today doesn’t shatter your faith in them nothing will. Another appalling performance, I’d say they are now the second worst team in the comp. They won’t win another game this year.

  8. I couldn’t agree more with your comment Daffy. Appalling is putting it mildly. I don’t think the Dragons will win another match this year either. Doust is leaving this year and I think McGregor should follow Doust out the door as well, in fact the management if they had any guts would have a meeting with McGregor on Monday morning and sack him effective IMMEDIATELY and appoint an interim coach from outside who I’m sure would do a better job than McGregor.

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