SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 01: Zac Lomax of the Dragons makes a break during the round 24 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Wests Tigers at Sydney Cricket Ground on September 01, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Predicted Finish: 13th

Actual Finish: 12th

Predictable season for the Dragons in 2020. Despite plenty of talent, they always looked as though they lacked the consistency to really challenge for a final’s birth. Out of form players in key positions and off field distractions landed them right where their performances deserved.

Highlights

Future Sorted: FINALLY. After literal seasons of speculation, the Dragons have finally made the decision to move on from coach Paul McGregor. Before the comments start, I do not blame McGregor entirely for the Dragons continued below par results, however it was obvious over 18 months ago that the club needed to head in a new direction. In Anthony Griffin the club has a vision with plenty of experience. He has named experienced assistant coaches and looks like to have a vision the Red V have lacked for the better part of two years.

Cam McInnes/Matt Dufty: Ben Hunt’s move to the nine threatened to derail the season of the Dragons skipper Cam McInnes, but instead it only furthered his development and also delivered him an Origin debut. McInnes was incredible. He overcame an injury that threatened up to half his season, and whilst playing out of position averaged 120 metres per game, tackled at 95% efficiency and played big minutes. Matt Dufty became the undisputed number one option at fullback in 2020. 13 tries, 12 try assists and 60 tackle breaks in 18 appearances makes for good reading.

Defensively solid(ish): For a team that finished 12th, the Dragons defensive numbers weren’t terrible. They weren’t great either but they conceded the least amount of points of the bottom eight sides. They conceded less points than the Sharks, who finished eighth. They also scored the second-most points out of the same bottom eight crop. That’s nothing to write home about but those stats were both a shock to me when I looked at the final ladder. That’s something to build on.

Lowlights

Horror Start: The Dragons are well known for starting well. Across social media fans lay into the side for starting well yet fading away, calling them March Premiers. Four straight losses, plus a Covid enforced break, meant that the Dragons didn’t register their first win until June. It’s tough to start 0-4 and make finals. Losses to the Tigers, Warriors and Bulldogs proceeded their breakthrough win in Round Five over the Sharks. With all due respect to those three aforementioned sides, they are teams the Dragons should be expected to beat.

Hunt/Norman fail to deliver again: Fans of the club are sick of hearing about it and truthfully I’m sick of typing it, but the Dragon’s two big name and even bigger money halves just didn’t deliver in 2020. Hunt has been unfairly targeted in the past and made a scapegoat for Dragons performances but his form was so below par this season that only a shift into the nine kept him in first grade.

Norman was tasked with being the senior playmaker and despite signs simply didn’t love up to his immense talents. Norman is one of the most entertaining players in the competition while Hunt is an elite number nine, however neither have shown anywhere near their best in the Red V. Talk is Hunt will return to seven despite playing his best footy at hooker.

de Belin distractions: I umm’ed and ahh’ed about including this but the fact is the de Belin case hung over the Dragons season in a big way and needs to be mentioned. I don’t want to go into this with the case still ongoing however the “will he/won’t he” play saga seemed to hang over the squad for the second straight year.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA – SEPTEMBER 09: Jack De Belin of the Dragons passes during the NRL Elimination Final match between the Brisbane Broncos and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Suncorp Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Star Player

Zac Lomax

The 21 year-old really delivered on his promise in 2020 after FINALLY cementing his spot in the centres. 13 tries, seven line breaks, seven try assists and over 100 metres per game secured him an Origin squad spot and had him in the running for the Dally M team of the year.

McInnes was named player of the year by the club, and I can’t begrudge him that honour, but Lomax won games for the Dragons with his brilliance. He kept them in other games they were set to lose by big margins.

If there’s one major positive to come out of 2020, it’s the development into superstardom by their young centre. Incredibly he played every minute of every game for the club in 2020.

Season Grading

D

The Dragons finished three wins, and points differential out of the top eight. Considering all the distractions they had all season I can make an argument that it wasn’t an “F” grade season.

That’s a pure technicality though as a side brimming with talent refused to cash in on moments of brilliance. Lomax and Dufty literally won games for the Red V this season so it could have been worse.

The Paul McGregor era dragged on literally seasons too long, whereas the club should have been moving forward. The Shane Flanagan experiment lasted only the one season as an early return to head coaching was knocked back.

There were positives for the Dragons in 2020, mainly in individual performances and results but the fact they named an experienced coach, and assist coaches, and now have a plan moving forward will have plenty in the Dragon army smiling.

2020 won’t be looked back upon with any fondness but it may be the season where the club finally started righting the ship for the future.