PRICHARD: Beale, Dugan – can anyone help the free-falling Dragons?

Greg Prichard Columnist

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    Kurtley Beale ruled out of Rugby World Cup semi-final against the All Blacks (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

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    What are those of you who thought it wrong to label St George Illawarra as wooden-spoon contenders thinking now?

    After three rounds they are already in that battle up to their ears.

    Only the supremely awful Warriors are keeping them from the bottom of the table at this stage, and the schedule of an away game against Cronulla this weekend suggests it will be four losses from four rounds for the Dragons.

    Now there is talk they may be interested in signing Kurtley Beale, the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby player who was sent home in disgrace from South Africa this week after a physical altercation with his captain and another teammate.

    Sounds like a fantastic potential addition to the squad.

    That is on top of St George Illawarra being interested in another disgraced player, Josh Dugan.

    Unfortunately for the Dragons, though, it seems the fullback who was sacked by Canberra for yet another off-field indiscretion is more likely to head to Brisbane.

    The Broncos are apparently another club so in need of an injection of stars that they would be prepared to take a risk on a rebel like Dugan.

    That is what happens when star players who are sacked by their clubs go looking for employment elsewhere.

    They end up at clubs that are so badly lacking in the x-factor department that they will ignore the considerable negatives in favour of the potential positives.

    It is why Sydney Roosters picked up Todd Carney after he was sacked by Canberra, and why Cronulla did the same after Carney split with the Roosters. Now, it seems, Carney has settled down.

    Every club that makes that move hopes they will be the one that turns the player around, but what usually happens is that the player himself eventually decides whether he will turn around or not.

    And that decision is often based on how quickly his opportunities are running out and whether he is sensible enough to do something about it.

    There is no guarantee Dugan will turn himself around at his next club. If he went to the Dragons, would he afford the coach, Steve Price, respect? Price has no guarantee of his own future, and that is part of the problem at the Dragons.

    They have struggled to attract players, and that struggle will only become greater while they keep losing and while it remains unclear who will coach them next season.

    Potential player recruits want to know who is going to coach them, and if a club can’t tell them for sure then that is an easy way for the player to put a line through them and move further along in the decision-making process.

    I don’t know who is going to coach St George Illawarra next year, but like the vast majority of the league world I’ll be stunned if it is Price.

    For how much longer are the current Dragons players going to listen to him if the club is showing no sign of backing him by giving him a new contract?

    Some people suggested there were signs of improvement from St George Illawarra in their 30-17 loss to Canberra last weekend, but everything is relative.

    The Raiders had their own problems, coming off two floggings in the first two rounds and the Dugan drama.

    Neither side would have gone into that game with great confidence, and even though Canberra got the win it was still just a step – rather than a leap – for them.

    They still have issues to do with their play that they need to deal with as well.

    The Dragons really didn’t come far at all. Their attack is poor, and that just puts too much pressure on a defence that used to be their strength.

    Wayne Bennett left St George Illawarra after his three-year contract as coach was up, even though the Dragons wanted to keep him, and then, after just a year of Price, the Dragons went after Craig Bellamy for next year and couldn’t get him.

    These are coaches renowned for making good decisions.

    The Dragons had a team that was starting to age even when they won the competition, in 2010, and since then that ageing process has taken full effect.

    There is no easy way out for the club from here.

    Greg Prichard
    Greg Prichard

    Greg Prichard has spent all of his working life in the media, from way back when journalists were still using typewriters. He has covered rugby league, football, AFL and various other sports for News Limited and Fairfax newspapers and also worked for magazines, radio and pay television. Twitter: @gregprichard