It’s a huge year for the St George-Illawarra club ahead of Ben Hunt’s arrival at the club in 2018. Two burning questions remain. What does the future hold for Josh Dugan and his coach, Paul McGregor?
Last season placing: 11th place
2016 was a season that lacked any momentum, let alone scoring opportunities with England international Gareth Widdop and former Kiwi superstar Benji Marshall in the halves.
341 points in attack was the worse since the club was formed in 1999.
Amazingly they were inside the eight after sixteen rounds, but a five game losing streak put pay to their finals chances. In pockets there were some encouraging results with wins over six of the top eight sides, including a huge win over the premiers Cronulla Sharks 32-18 in round 23.
A breakthrough win in both the Intrust Super Premiership and NRL State Championship with feeder club Illawarra Cutters demonstrates a new breed of players including Shaun Nona and Drew Hutchinson are set to play some part in the 2017 senior side campaign.
By far the greatest weapon in the Dragons attack, Josh Dugan has been a consistent performer for the Dragons in his four year tenure with the club. With contract negotiations going on in the background this is the perfect year for the fullback to become more involved, playing closer to the line like Matt Moylan does with Penrith. This year we might see the best of Dugan if he can stay away from injury.
During the Bulldogs success of 2014 and 2015, Tim Lafai was destructive when taking on the defence and creating opportunities out wide. Last year we didn’t even get close to seeing that at Lafai went missing with the Dragons struggling to put points on the board. Off-contract at season’s end, this will be a career defining 2017 for the twenty-five year old who is playing for his immediate future.
Story of 2017
The continuing uncertainty of Paul McGregor’s future at the club will dominate the 2017 landscape until he falls on his sword, or loses the confidence of the Dragons board. There’s a couple of good coaches out there, including former Panthers coach Ivan Cleary who could inject some life into the club.
Some tricky negotiations off-field with the negotiations on Josh Dugan and Jason Nightingale’s contract coming to a head. This is largely thanks to the Ben Hunt multi-million contract that will squeeze their salary cap enormously.
Not sure the fans, or rugby league community think Ben Hunt is worth a cool million. Dragons fans are known to be one of the most passionate in the league and this is likely to dominate chat on the famous Kogarah hill ahead of their opening game.
Top Try Scorer: Nene McDonald
Top Point Scorer: Gareth Widdop
Player of the Year: Josh Dugan