Phil Gould
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 18: Former Penrith Panthers General Manager of Football Phil Gould in the mounting yard to watch his horse Jailbreak compete in race 1 during Sydney Racing at Rosehill Gardens on May 18, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Canterbury Bulldogs director of football Phil Gould has revealed he has been left "staggered" by tips suggesting the St George Illawarra Dragons could be in line to receive the wooden spoon in 2022.

The Dragons are one of the more polarising sides in 2022, splitting opinion on where they are likely to finish come the end of the season.

The Red V finished in 11th spot on the table last year, winning just eight games across the course of the season.

The somewhat surprising option by the club to take up a contract option for Anthony Griffin to remain at the Dragons in 2023 has been met with intense criticism from fans, however, despite plenty of predictions suggesting the club will falter in 2022, there is reason for optimism.

St George Illawarra are set to unearth a number of young talents into their starting 17 this year, including Jayden Sullivan, Talatau Amone and gun fullback Tyrell Sloan, who is yet to not score in an NRL game.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 01: In this handout image provided by NRL Photos Tyrell Sloan of the Dragons scores a try during the round 20 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Browne Park, on August 01, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by NRL Photos via Getty Images )

Gould, speaking on the Six Tackles with Gus podcast, said he couldn't believe they were being talked up as a wooden spoon candidate.

"I was staggered that some people were tipping them as a wooden spoon contender. They'll be a lot closer to the top than the bottom when we call a halt to this competition. I think they're a top-eight chance," Gould said.

"They'll be in that sort of middle rung; somewhere between sixth and tenth is where I see them at the moment.

"I see them as much better than a number of teams in this competition.

"These young kids are very, very special,"

"They've got points in them. The hardest part of getting out of the cellar is the belief that you can score points.

"Defence wins you comps, the best defensive teams win the comps, generally.

NRL Rd 19 - Dragons v Titans
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JULY 25: Jayden Sullivan of the Dragons runs the ball during the round 19 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium, on July 25, 2021, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

"But the ability to score points is what gets you up the ladder and gets you in contention. You need to find points because that gives your team confidence, it gives you more points to defend until your defence comes up to scratch. If you have an inability to score points as soon as the opposition is up 6-0 or 12-0, heads drop, belief is sucked out of them, they start to play catch-up.

"The Dragons with these kids – I don't think the scoreboard's ever going to intimidate them. They play with a freeness and a spirit that I hope is not taken out of them. I hope they can be themselves and find their own way."

The Dragons open their season with a Saturday clash on the Sunshine Coast against the New Zealand Warriors.