St George Illawarra Dragons 2017 season review

Eddie Otto Roar Pro

By , Eddie Otto is a Roar Pro

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    Not much was expected from the Dragons in 2017 having been installed as second favourites to win the wooden spoon behind the Newcastle Knights.

    However, they stunned many by leading the competition after eight rounds before a dramatic collapse saw them miss the finals and finish in ninth spot.

    Season Finish: Ninth
    Vital statistics: 12 Wins, 12 Losses, 533 Points Scored, 450 Points Conceded.

    Season rating: 7/10
    I have to give the Dragons a high rating based on the fact I expected them to come second last and they went within a breath of making the finals. Of course there will be intense disappointment, and rightly so, about missing the finals given they led the competition for eight rounds and only had to beat the Bulldogs in the final round to qualify in seventh place.

    However, the side actually finished with the third-best points differential in the competition, meaning they suffered a few costly close losses in games they should have won. Overall, however, I thought it was a pretty good effort from the Dragons as they played a physical brand of football as well as revamping a stagnant attack that had been close to the worst in the NRL over the previous couple of seasons.

    Coach rating:7/10
    I think Paul McGregor got plenty out of his side this year. Credit has to go to him for ripping up the game plan and finding a way for the team to get over the try line more regularly this year. Gone were the slow, robotic set plays; instead they played a more aggressive, direct style of football with more offloads and second-phase play. The Saints’ fans are harsh taskmasters, though, and they will be wondering whether McGregor has the personality to steer a big club back to the promised land given another late-season fade-out.

    (Image: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    Best win: St George Illawarra Dragons 42-10 Penrith Panthers
    This was a good old classic ambush, as the despised underdogs ran roughshod over a shellshocked Panthers side. The Dragons attack had looked anaemic in the preseason but ran in seven tries here in a display full of power and energy.

    Worst loss: South Sydney Rabbitohs 26-24 St George Illawarra Dragons
    I selected this game as the Dragons ultimately missed the finals by two points, despite having had a stranglehold on this game. Leading by eight points with ten minutes to play, they should never have allowed an opponent, with nothing to play for, to score two relatively simple tries. It was unforgivable, really, and Paul McGregor will probably rue this loss for the next few months before he comes out of his coma.

    Best player: Paul Vaughan
    For me it was a toss-up between Paul Vaughan and Gareth Widdop, but I went for Vaughan because I thought he changed the dimension of the whole Dragons pack. This was a pack that had struggled and been stood over in the past couple years, and Vaughan changed all that with his barnstorming runs and presence in the middle of the field. I thought he was outstanding and desperately unlucky to miss out on an Origin berth. He also picked up eight tries, which is unheard of for a prop, proving a real weapon close to the goal-line.

    Most disappointing player: Josh Dugan
    It’s very hard to go past Dugan here, who won’t be missed by the Dragons, in my opinion. His form was good early in the season; however, he lost his way after the Origin break on and off the field. I think his best football is behind him and, while he remains a tough and quality player, injuries have taken the edge off him and he can no longer be relied upon to get through the majority of the season.

    Prospects for 2018
    I think there is reason to like this side next season, particularly with the addition of Ben Hunt and the emergence of a fast fullback like Matt Dufty. However, there are reasons to be concerned about the battle scars of a late-season slide as well as losing two experienced players in Josh Dugan and a real pack enforcer in Russell Packer. I think they can make the finals next season; however, plenty will depend on how Hunt slots into his new surroundings under the microscope considering the big contract he signed.