As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how St George Illawarra will go in 2021.
St George Illawarra will head in a new direction after the Paul McGregor era came to an end in 2020.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Daniel Alvaro, Jack Bird, Eddie Blacker, Billy Brittain, Adam Clune, Jack de Belin*, Matt Dufty, Kaide Ellis, Matthew Feagai, Max Feagai, Poasa Faamausili, Jackson Ford, Tyrell Fuimaono, Ben Hunt, Josh Kerr, Blake Lawrie, Zachary Lomax, Andrew McCullough, Cameron McInnes, Trent Merrin, Corey Norman, Jordan Pereira, Cody Ramsay, Mikaele Ravalawa, Tariq Sims, Jayden Sullivan, Paul Vaughan, Brayden Wiliame. (28 players *de Belin contract yet to be ratified by NRL pending court case)
SigningsEmbed from Getty Images
Daniel Alvaro (Parramatta Eels, 2022), Jack Bird (Brisbane Broncos, 2022), Poasa Faamausili (Sydney Roosters, 2022), Andrew McCullough (Brisbane Broncos, 2023)
Euan Aitken (New Zealand Warriors), Tyson Frizell (Newcastle Knights), James Graham (retired), Jacob Host (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Tim Lafai (released), Joe Lovodua (released), Isaac Luke (Brisbane Broncos), Jason Saab (Manly Sea Eagles), Tristan Sailor (released), Korbin Sims (Hull Kingston Rovers)
Sharks (H), Cowboys (A), Manly (H), Knights (A), Eels (A)
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Dragons will give their younger players valuable first grade experience in 2021. The football department has changed in the off season but many of the underperforming players remain. The Dragons have a healthy nursery of younger players at their disposal and a coach prepared to give them their opportunity. The team will search for consistency especially in their spine, a factor that has left many uninspired.Embed from Getty Images
The Dragons under fire halfback will be looking to lead this team in more than one way. Ben Hunt has been named as the captain of the Dragons in a move that will either help refocus his game or increase the scrutiny on his performances. The halfback has been placed in an ideal position, having a coach and now a hooker that he is comfortable playing with. When he first came to the club in 2018, Hunt was in great form – combining with Gareth Widdop – and will need to recapture that confidence to take this side forward.
The two high profile signings for the Dragons are Jack Bird and Andrew McCullough. Jack Bird has played at left centre for their trial matches joining the Dragons off the back of an injury prone stint at the Broncos. The Dragons will want Bird to build himself into the game and get consistency in his legs. While the supporters will be hoping that Bird can help tighten their edge defence while providing an extra spark in attack.
Andrew McCullough’s combination with Ben Hunt was a big reason why Griffin chased hard for the former Broncos hooker. They’ll be looking for the former Queensland representative to take control up the middle and ease pressure on the halves in controlling the game. Recently, McCullough was on loan to Newcastle, where he helped Pearce and Ponga concentrate on their game. That’s what Griffin will be looking to achieve with this signing.
There is nothing certain about the Dragons regardless of which opposition they play. Lately the side has been sluggish when forced to travel but have also come up short against sides they should beat while playing at home. The team will look to reassess each week and will be primed to kick off their season with a local derby against their fierce rivals.
Cody Ramsey to be in the running for top try scorer of the year. He’ll cap off his first full season with the 2021 Dally M Rookie of the Year award.
As for the season ahead – it appears the team will likely be a mid-table team but -with every chance of mistakes from previous years being committed again – the Dragons could be fighting it out for the spoon.
One thing you can bank on, the Dragons will come out firing in 2021 with a huge victory over the Sharks.Embed from Getty Images
Top Tryscorer – Cody Ramsey
Top Pointscorer – Zac Lomax
Club Player of the Year – Paul Vaughan