After a disastrous first half of 2014 the Dragons showed signs of life under interim coach Paul McGregor, and head into the new season with plenty of optimism. Winger Brett Morris is off to the Bulldogs which opens up a spot on the flank and the likes of Eto Nabuli, Yaw Kiti Glymin and Peter Mata’utia will battle it out for the number two jersey. Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop got better the more they played together and upfront some much needed size has been added in the way of relative unknowns Rulon Nutira and Rory O’Brien as well as experienced campaigner George Rose. With many predicting the Dragons to finish outside the top 8 for the fourth consecutive year, McGregor and co have a big job ahead of them.
Key Player: With Morris’ departure, Jason Nightingale becomes the number one winger at the club and after helping NZ to a Four Nations triumph (scoring a tournament high 5 tries along the way) Nightingale should be full of confidence heading into the new season. He is no longer a reliable, if underrated winger and is a fantastic finisher, great under the high ball and a solid defender.
Drawbacks: You can’t replace Brett Morris, who notched up 112 tries in 169 games. Eto Nabuli looks promising but hasn’t tasted first grade yet, ditto Yaw Kiti Glymin while Mata’utia is yet to hold down a regular spot. They have recruited heavily but names like Keating, L’Estrange and Rose will hardly strike fear into the hearts of opponents.
Story of 2015: With Russell Packer’s release from a 12-month prison sentence, his impending move to the Dragons would be a great story for the game if he can find his best football under McGregor. The rugby league world loves a feel good story and it would be great to be reading about the former NZ international’s exploits on the field, rather than off the field.
Top Try Scorer: Jason Nightingale
Top Pointscorer: Gareth Widdop
Player of the year: Gareth Widdop