To give their fans some hope!
After years of disappointment, Dragons fans need a team they can believe in again. Fans gave the Paul McGregor led era more than enough time to succeed but after a 15th place finish in 2019 the majority were calling for his sacking.
After continued failures in 2020, McGregor stepped aside in August and was replaced by his assistant Dean Young for the remainder of the season. Without any obvious improvement under Young, the Dragons interviewed for the head coach role and Anthony Griffin was appointed.
Griffin’s last head coaching role was with the Panthers in 2018. Penrith were in contention for a top 4 finish and Griffin was stunningly sacked as a victim of club politics. With a coaching record over 173 NRL games and a 55% winning ratio, he brings experience and a hard edge.
His biggest concern going into the 2021 season is unlike his previous coaching stints at both the Broncos (2011- 14) and the Panthers, as he won’t have a ready made playing roster to compete with the top rated clubs from day one.
The roster he inherits lacks a star playmaker and quality in many positions. Strangely, the Dragons have been relatively quiet in their off-season recruitment.
Jack Bird comes in from the Broncos but his run of serious knee injuries means his recruitment is a gamble. At his best Bird can be a huge asset, but will need more quality players around him to push the Dragons into being competitive.
Good news for the Dragons is they have some good young talent coming through. Jayden Sullivan, the Feagai twins and Cody Ramsey, who should all get quality game time in 2021.
If Matt Dufty can find confidence in his ability and the faith of the coaches he can be the Dragons strike weapon. Blessed with pace, Dufty needs to work on his game but has the potential. He just needs consistency.
Zac Lomax began to show the potential that good judges have bestowed on him since his junior days. He has now settled on a position in the centres after being shuffled around the backline. He will need to continue to work on his defence before he can be considered a top rated player.
The Dragons have a strong pack to be competitive but don’t look as dynamic as other teams. Their spine doesn’t look settled and Griffin will need to decide where he sees Ben Hunt fit into the team to get the best out of the highly-paid but so far underperformed player.
Most see Hunt as a dummy half. For the majority of his time at the Dragons he has played as a half. His move to hooker at times last season coincided with the Dragons playing their best football.
If Griffin makes the call to move Hunt to hooker he will need to settle on a halves combination. Adam Clune looked solid in his debut season at 7. That leaves Corey Norman and Jayden Sullivan to fight out the five-eighth position.
I like the look of Sullivan, he has a bit of Anthony Mundine about him. He is most definitely a star on the rise. Corey Norman has been tried and tested. Although still a good player now, it might be the time to give youth a chance and give Sullivan the time to grow his game in the NRL.
It will be another testing year for the Dragons in 2021. They will improve under Griffin but I can’t see them challenging the front runners. Let’s hope some of the Dragons young players get a chance throughout the year. If they do, 2022 will be a much better year for the Red V.