As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how the St George-llawarra Dragons will go in 2020.
The St George-Illawarra Dragons will expect close to perfection for 2020. Their abysmal 2019 season means jobs are on the line if there aren’t any signs of improvement.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Tyrell Fuimaono (Penrith Panthers), Isaac Luke (New Zealand Warriors), Trent Merrin (Leeds Rhinos), Brayden Williame (Catalan Dragons).
Mitchell Allgood (released), Patrick Kaufusi (released), Jeremy Latimore (retired), Luciano Leilua (Wests Tigers), Steven Marsters (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Jonus Pearson (Gold Coast Titans), Reece Robson (North Queensland Cowboys), Gareth Widdop (Warrington Wolves).
TOP 30 SQUAD: Euan Aitken, Eddie Blacker, Jack de Belin, Matt Dufty, Jackson Ford, Tyson Frizell, Tyrell Fuimaono, James Graham, Jacob Host, Ben Hunt, Josh Kerr, Tim Lafai, Blake Lawrie, Zac Lomax, Joe Lovodua, Issac Luke, Cameron McInnes, Trent Merrin, Corey Norman, Jordan Pereira, Mikaele Ravalawa, Jason Saab, Tristan Sailor, Korbin Sims, Tariq Sims, Paul Vaughan, Brayden Williame.
DEVELOPMENT SQUAD: Mathew Feagai, Max Feagai, Hayden Lomax, Shaun Sauni-Esau, Jayden Sullivan, Adam Clune.
Tigers (H), Panthers (H), Raiders (A), Eels (A), Warriors (H)
WHAT TO EXPECT
There only seems to be two possibilities for the Dragons in 2020: come out of the blocks, firing on all cylinders and taking the season by storm, or continuing the inconsistent form that plagued them last season. The playing roster hasn’t been overhauled, with the changes needing to come within the team’s style and structures. Paul McGregor needs to prove that he can lead a change in the tactical side of the game. Shane Flanagan has been brought in to fix the weak elements in defence, but defensive steel will mean nothing if they can’t get the points on the board. The Dragons’ simple game plan of playing tough and relying on their forwards was easily handled last year, and their inability to adapt to different game scenarios hurt them badly. Their attacking power out wide comes more from breaking down the opposition’s defence rather than individual brilliance. They rely on set plays but they need to ensure that they don’t become too predictable.
The Dragons’ right-side defence was problematic at best, leaking far too many tries last season. With a forward pack packed with international players and representative quality in the halves, the Dragons need to be supported all over the park for their stars to shine. This will come down to their centre three-quarter pairing of Euan Aitken and Tim Lafai. These two players are integral in the way the side defends, and they will need to take their attacking game to another level if the Dragons want to compete against the heavyweights of the competition. McGregor can’t accept the same level of performance from his outside backs and will need to consider a reshuffle if the correct standard isn’t met.
The Dragons haven’t made wholesale changes to their playing roster, with mainly fringe signings in order to finalise their squad. Isaac Luke will bring a healthy amount of experience to the team and will help them out throughout the representative season. Brayden Wiliame and Tyrell Fuimaono will bring depth to squad with the former a real opportunity to break into the team if poor form continues. The big signing is the return of Trent Merrin, the former Dragon who was there the last time they won the premiership. He is towards the back end of his career but the main focus behind his signing is most likely one of culture. He has expressed his passion and desire to return to the Dragons and the hope will be that his enthusiasm and attitude will reinvigorate the playing squad.
The opening of the season presents the Dragons with an immediate opportunity to reverse their fortunes. They face a mixture of sides that made the 2019 finals or were challenging for it. The toughest period coming between rounds six to eight with competition heavyweights Souths, the Roosters, and the Storm awaiting them. If the Dragons don’t start their season off correctly, then they’ll be playing catch up. They get the majority of their travel done inside the first ten rounds, only needing to travel outside of Sydney one more time for the season. This a similar draw from the previous two seasons, which makes it hard to gain a true reflection on how this will benefit them.
Top Tryscorer – Euan Aitken
Top Pointscorer – Zac Lomax
Club Player of the Year – Tyson Frizell
WHERE WILL THE ST GEORGE-ILLAWARRA DRAGONS FINISH?
The Dragons have the quality to contend for finals positions, but they will require something quite phenomenal to be a chance for the premiership. At best they will be a middle-table team, although if they fail to learn from last year’s mistakes then they are every chance of finishing with the wooden spoon.
Matt P to insert interactive poll