St. George-Illawarra Dragons
Record (W-L-D): 12-12-0
Top Pointscorer: Gareth Widdop
Top Tryscorer: Gareth Widdop
As Fijian winger Eto Nabuli dove past the Bulldogs defence and into their in-goal to level the scores, there was hope for the St. George-Illawarra Dragons in their hope to reach the next NRL finals round. However, the turbulently-emotional golden point period saw the joint-venture club go down to a Josh Reynolds field goal on the eighty-fourth minute. The Dragons then headed for the changing rooms, disappointed with the end result but undoubtedly thankful to have reached the finals after three prior years of finishing outside the top eight. Head coach and ex-centre Paul “Mary” McGregor could now prepare for 2016 with the satisfaction of having taken the Dragons from the mess they were during Steve Price’s sacking, to first place on the NRL ladder and then finals contenders within a season.
The choice from the joint-venture board to promote assistant-coach Mary to head coach mid-way through last season, was met with mixed reactions throughout the Dragons fanbase. But after the board granted a four-year contract for the Woollongong-local due to leading the team to a few wins, some of the Dragons fanbase lashed out on social-media, and this was one of the leads to the #SaveOurSaints campaign which raged online in the earlier half of the year.
The Dragons began the 2015 NRL season with two losses in the first two rounds, sparking suspicion this year was to be no different than the previous seasons where mediocre performances had ensued. Although, after a second-half comeback against the Canberra Raiders, the Dragons quickly gained momentum and went on to achieve a seven-game winning streak. Once the Dragons succumbed to their third loss of the season in round ten, the “RedV” were in first place on the NRL ladder and had the competition’s best defence for 2015 according to statistics.
In a sudden shift of events, the Dragons went on a six-game losing streak before defeating the Newcastle Knights at Kogarah Park, a ground embroiled in controversy as ANZ Stadium plays host to most of the RedV’s fixtures. Then with only five matches left until the final eight were decided, the Dragons won three of these clashes to sneak into the top-eight through eighth-place on the ladder.
At the conclusion of the season, Gareth Widdop, whose injury at the latter end of the season caused fans to fear for the team’s finals hopes, finished with having scored the most points of any player in the side and having scored the most tries. Second Rower Leeson Ah Mau, the only player in the squad to compete in twenty-five of the season’s fixtures, won the Red V Player of the Year award as presented by the club. Ah Mau 657 tackles and a whopping 240 hit-ups throughout his fourth season at the RedV.
Another stand-out this season was 24-year old Peter Mata’utia, who scored 8 tries this season in just his second year at the club. Along with Mitch Rein, who topped the tackle-count for Dragons players by making a magnificent 938 tackles this season alone.
Looking toward next season, Mary has re-signed big names Leeson Ah Mau, Euan Aitken, Mike Cooper and Jason Nightingale. From the U.K., Mose Masoe and Tyrone McCarthy have been signed from the Super League. While back in Australia, powerful forward Trent Merrin moves to the Penrith Panthers having left his legacy on the club.