SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 24: The Dragons look dejected after a Roosters try during the round 23 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Roosters at Jubilee Stadium on August 24, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Pre-Season Prediction: 8th

Actual Finish: 15th


4 game win streak: After losing their opening two fixtures the Dragons would put together a four game win streak to reignite their season.

They would leave the Broncos, Knights, Dogs and Sea Eagles laying, including two one-point wins.

Corey Norman was slotting winners for fun, Vaughan and Frizell were leading a tough as nails pack and their defence was almost impenetrable in the final three games of this streak.

NSW Cup: This may sound like a backhanded compliment, and in a way it is, but the Dragons NSW Cup minor Premiership should bring top level success, in theory.

They had four players make the team of the year including young gun Tristan Sailor and the supremely talented Jackson Ford.

Adam Clune stared in the halves while Lachlan Timm bashed opposition defences from prop.

There SHOULD be at least two regular first graders for 2020 in those four. Ford and Sailor made their debuts this year and should build from that.

Low Lights

Jack de Belin: I actually didn’t want to mention this here but it had a hugely negative affect on the Dragons season.

We all know the story but the way the entire process dragged on, the Dragons should have focused elsewhere.

Hunt/Norman inconsistency: The Red Vs season was going to live or die based on the form of it’s three attacking stars.

When Widdop suffered a long-term injury, it was down to two; Ben Hunt and Corey Norman. Unfortunately, despite their undoubted talent, neither was able to produce quality with any consistency.

It’s easy enough to place blame on certain players and ignore other issues, but considering they’re both highly paid rep halves, neither lived up to the expectations.

Both will benefit from a settled off-season together. McGregor needs to commit to a combination and stick to it.

Coaching farce: I said a few weeks ago that too many clubs simply sack the coach as a quick fix. The Dragons are anti-that.

The McGregor years can be summed up by brilliant starts and horror finishes. 2019 was different only in that they forgot the good start.

I cannot explain how a supposed review was conducted and his name was not the main topic.

The Dragons even extended the embattled coach’s contract in April.

There is no more maligned coach in the game than McGregor and I understand the frustration of Dragons fans. Nothing changes.

Matt Dufty: I’ve avoided singling out players in these in the past but Dufty, for mine, was the most disappointing aspect of the Dragons 2019.

An absolute superstar in the making, Dufty was the great white, and red V, hope at Kogarah/The Gong.

Fast forward to an Origin period where his name was supposed to be mentioned and he’s playing in NSW Cup.

Truthfully thought McGregor didn’t give him a chance to settle in with his 300 personel and positional changes.

Star Player: Cameron McInnes

The bright spot in an otherwise dire season was the Dragons number 9.

He smashed the competition at the Dragons end of year awards, and rightfully so.

One of the most consistent dummy halves in the competition, McInnes lead from the front in every minute of every game in 2019.

He’s just under 180cm but plays like he’s 6 foot 6. His tackle on Bronson Xerri was the try saver of the season.

Season Grading: F

Not even the most positive fan of the Dragons could spin 2019 as anything other than a huge disaster.

The only team they finished over at the conclusion of the season legitimately would have struggled to play finals in the NSW Cup competition.

A team chock full of representative players and an experienced coach counted for very little when push came to shove.

It’s easy enough to blame the distraction of the Jack de Belin cases but every club has distractions, the Dragons just couldn’t overcome theirs.

An early injury to Gareth Widdop didn’t help but this is a side with an all rep forward pack, two rep halves and some of the games best young talent.

McGregor has to take another horror season on the chin and can count himself very lucky to be given 2020.

The Hunt/Norman combination didn’t work, Matt Dufty played his best footy in reserve grade and I honestly can’t remember the last time I enjoyed watching the Dragons play.

2019 was a season of very few highlights and quite frankly there are no excuses.

A stacked roster, a passionate fan base, supposedly good administration.

Dragons fans spent more time signing petitions and drawing up protest signs than they did singing the team song.

Their only two wins across the final ten weeks of the season came against the Titans. That sums up the supposed “pride” shown in the jersey.

This will be a long and not so fun off-season, and so it should be.

With exactly zero signings for 2020, the wins are going to have to come from what they already have, sans Widdop.

Once again they have a roster very capable of playing finals footy but as for 2019, this won’t be a season to remember for anything but the wrong reasons.


  1. Hunt is a running half-back, plenty of whispers he can’t work with McGregor’s boring and predictable game plan. Dufty’s problem is he won’t listen, he’s like that d!ckhead Jesse on the Block, put that down to a weak coach, Bellamy would have Dufty shaping up his attitude in a millisecond. A lot of the failings can be put down to the useless coach. Frizzell is just being used as a battering ram and is sick of it. Dumb coach with dumb boring plays. As much as I despise Flannagan I hope he has a lot of say in the coaching and game plan. Part of me would love to see them fail miserably gain next year so they have to punt McGregor, but if Flannagan can turn them around that’ll do me for now.

  2. Have to agree Daffy. Mary has wasted a lot of talent at his disposal. He seems to have the ability to turn very good players into average players and I would love to know what his game plan is.

  3. @ Daffy, yep – totally agree. I hope they do the old attack and defense routine whereas Flanno gets the attack. I think Friz might actually benefit with the return hook up of Flano as will a few other players.

  4. For what it’s worth I’m usually the last person to blame a coach, but where else can you look?
    Uh, I know, it’s Frizell’s fault, release hm (to Parra). Sorry, I know – not funny, but I seriously want him to come to Parra, as I’m sure you’d understand.

  5. If Timm doesn’t get on well with the first grade coaching staff there, as one Saints fan on here suggested. Penrith should buy him. They need another good prop & St.George have plenty of big forwards coming through.
    Clune should start 2020 in the first grade halves at St.George . Talented & think he had the most try assists in the Canterbury Cup .

  6. The Dragons fans deserve much better than this. This entire season was a farce for them. Mcgregor needs to pick a side and stick to it barring injuries and suspensions so there could actually be cohesion.

    1) Dufty/Sailor/Field
    2) Saab
    3) Aitken
    4) Lomax (gk)
    5) Pereira
    6) Norman
    7) Hunt
    8) Graham
    9) McInnes
    10) Vaughan
    11) Frizell (c)
    12) Sims
    13) DeBelin/Leilua (all depends on DeBelin being found innocent or guilty)

    14) Timm (prop)
    15) Ford (2nd row)
    16) Leilua/Lawrie (2nd row)
    17) Kerr/Sims (prop)

  7. So my comment correcting the error of Tristan Sailors name was deleted. Looks like it has been fixed now in the article. Thanks ZT!!!

  8. Spot on Dan – solid article – all harsh but fair.

    McGregor has to go – as simple as that.

    Need an entire club refresh

  9. I have two things to point out here: Dan Nicholls, you have stated that Ben Hunt & Corey Norman are highly paid rep stars. We all know about Ben Hunt and his mega contract, and for some reason the Australian coach likes him, but Corey Norman??? I don’t think so!! The fact he played ONE game for Queensland does not make him a rep ”star” in my opinion, and I’m not so sure that he’s highly paid either. You can criticise the Dragons as much as you like, but us supporters don’t need an exaggeration of a players ability. We have been very much let down by the signings of two particular Queenslanders.

    Point 2: You have stated that the Dragons have zero signings for 2020. No NRL club goes into a new season with zero new signings. There are always players looking for opportunities and the Dragons will pick up a few bargains buys along the way, and there is the Canterbury Cup side to pick from as well (As you rightly stated). I agree with EastOfDivide’s comments about Adam Clune and the big young forwards coming through.
    The problem will be convincing Mary to give them a go in first grade.

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