St George Illawarra's pre-season preparations hit another hump on the weekend, with Anthony Griffin's side going down to the Rabbitohs 48-16 in their final trial hitout of the year.
The Dragons were down by 34 points at the intermission of the Charity Shield and would go on to lose their third practice match in as many games following poor outings against the Sharks and Eels in the weeks prior.
— St George Illawarra Dragons (@NRL_Dragons) February 27, 2021
The club have endured a distracting off-season with banned star Jack de Belin's court case being prolonged into this year, while veteran playmaker Corey Norman awaits the verdict of his NRL breach notice appeal.
The Dragons ended their 2020 campaign with seven wins and 13 losses to sit 12th on the ladder for their efforts.
The club have since lost Tyson Frizell (Newcastle) and Jason Saab (Manly) to rival sides, while captain Cameron McInnes won't play another minute in the Red V after signing with Cronulla for 2022 before sustaining a season ending ACL injury.
Collectively, the issues at Kogarah are looking to take their toll on the club already, with SEN presenter Andrew Voss believing the Dragons will enter the 2021 season under the most pressure.
“Over the weekend all 16 clubs had their final practice match hitouts, and one team is under more pressure than any other," Voss said on 1170 SEN Breakfast.
“That team is the Dragons."
While echoing the view that trial performances won't fully dictate how a club's premiership season will turn out, Voss does believe the early signs are worrying for Griffin and co.
"To quote Gus Gould on the approach to trial matches ... ‘They’re there to implement basics of your training and practice sessions, experience some real physicality, give new combinations a chance to experience real game intensity, give younger players a taste of NRL level and aim for no injuries and a competitive performance, nothing more’. How many of those boxes have the Dragons ticked in the pre-season?," Voss added.
“Personally, I’ve never looked greatly into the wins and loss columns from trials, but I do take note of defence and high scores conceded.
“The Dragons competed in three trials, lost to the Sharks 36 to 28, lost to the Eels 28 to 6 and then on Saturday night they had a job done on them, 38 to 4 by half-time, then it ended 48 to 16. Grave concerns for the Dragons.
“They play their opening game on March 14, a Sunday night game against the Sharks. One positive is they don’t play any top four sides in the first four weeks.
“But they lost four out of their last five games last year.
“My prediction is, it’s going to be a very long winter for St. George Illawarra.”
The Dragons have made some strong moves in the open market across the past few months, signing Broncos playmaking duo Jack Bird and Andrew McCullough, along with prop pairing Poasa Faamausili from the Roosters and Daniel Alvaro from Parramatta.