2023 St George-Illawarra Dragons Preview

2023 is a critical year for the St George-Illawarra Dragons under Anthony Griffin as they aim to make the finals for the first time since 2018.

Preview

SQUAD

Aaron Woods, Ben Hunt, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Blake Lawrie, Cody Ramsey, Francis Molo, Jack De Belin, Jack Bird, Jacob Liddle, Jaiyden Hunt, Jayden Sullivan, Jaydn Su’A, Josh Kerr, Mathew Feagai, Max Feagai, Michael Molo, Mikaele Ravalawa, Moses Mbye, Moses Suli, Nick Lui Toso, Talatau Amone, Tautau Moga, Tyrell Fuimaono, Tyrell Sloan, William Burns, Zac Lomax, Zane Musgrove, Connor Muhleisen, Jackson Shereb, Josh Coric, Sione Finau. Coach: Anthony Griffin.

BEST SEVENTEEN

Moses Mbye, Mikaele Ravalawa, Moses Suli, Zac Lomax, Mat Feagai, Jayden Sullivan, Ben Hunt, Jack de Belin, Jacob Liddle, Blake Lawrie, Tyrell Fuimaono, Jaydn Su’A, Jack Bird, Zane Musgrove, Connor Muhleisen, Francis Molo, Ben Murdoch-Masila.

BEST SIGNING

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Jacob Liddle: finally, he has the chance to hold down the number nine role after struggling to maintain his spot in the Wests Tigers side. With 75 NRL games under his belt, long-term injuries and loss of form have dominated his seven years in the competition. Liddle has big shoes to fill following the retirement of Andrew McCullough, but there’s been glimpses of potential especially with Damien Cook like lightning speed out of dummy half.

KEY PLAYER

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Ben Hunt: he remains the key to any success for the Red V and is likely to notch his 300th appearance in the NRL at some stage during the season. Whether Talatau Amone or Jayden Sullivan partners him in the halves, the majority of set plays and kicking will come down to Hunt. His direction and leadership will be tested as the Dragons look to end their finals drought.

PLAYER TO WATCH

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Jaiyden Hunt: recipient of the Dragons 2022 NSW Cup player of the Year award, Hunt will be pushing for inclusion in the top seventeen. With seven NRL games under his belt, the former Brisbane Tigers and Melbourne Storm product can do the hard toil and play long minutes when required. The other player to keep an eye on is Connor Muhleisen who could debut for the Dragons in 2023 should Jacob Liddle struggle.

PREVIEW

Before the season starts the St George-Illawarra Dragons face an uphill battle.

The Dragons have lost 942 NRL games experience with the departure of George Burgess, Andrew McCullough, Josh McGuire, and Tariq Sims alone.

Additionally, they let go promising forward Jackson Ford. Cody Ramsey will miss the season with health issues and Talatau Amone has been stood down under the no-fault stand-down policy for an incident in November 2022. The Dragons will be keen to have the Amone court situation settled as soon as possible given their previous experience with Jack de Belin’s case hovering for a couple of years.

The signings of Ben Murdoch-Masila, Jacob Liddle and Zane Musgrove may go a little way to filling the experience void, but there’s plenty of opportunity for fringe NRL players or players in the junior system to make their mark.

All these combined puts immediate pressure on head coach Anthony Griffin to deliver results and will be under pressure to retain his job should the Dragons slide down the ladder.

They will have the first week off this season with the bye before meeting the Titans and Broncos in the fortnight after. The challenge for the Dragons comes mid-season when they face the Cowboys, Roosters, Panthers, Rabbitohs, Sharks and the Raiders in an eight-game stretch. They also will need to navigate a three-week period from round 23 where they play last year’s Grand Finalists Parramatta Eels, the Rabbitohs for a second time and Melbourne Storm.

The season might be as much about Griffin keeping his coaching gig as it will be the mental toughness and resilience that his side will need to endure while navigating the 2023 campaign.

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