The Dragons have Thompson well covered

Adam Bagnall Roar Pro

By Adam Bagnall, Adam Bagnall is a Roar Pro

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    First he was going to Manly, then he wasn’t, then it kind of cooled off and 2018 would probably be his last season in Dragons colours. Now he’s gone.

    I am of course talking of Joel Thompson’s departure to the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles, which has some fans livid, and the Dragons with a hole in their roster and a starting second-row spot to fill.

    Thompson played 85 games for the red V, and while he was coming off a stellar 2017, he is easily replaced in the form of hulking man mountain Luciano Leilua, who has recently re-signed for a further two seasons, which was perhaps the catalyst for Thompson’s departure. As a Dragons fan I’d be much more upset if we let Leilua slip through our fingers but managed to keep Thompson, who, at 29, is yet to play either Origin or test football.

    Leilua showed glimpses of his raw potential at the back end of 2016, and in just five games he showed more attacking prowess than most of the forwards who had been mainstays in the team all season. I was surprised when he failed to add to his NRL appearances during 2017 despite starring for Illawarra in the ISP and going on to take home the club’s player of the year award.

    I guess with a talent as prodigious as Leilua you don’t want to rush him into regular NRL duty before his time, but 2018 will see a big year for the young man.

    Back to Thompson, and we all know he’s aggressive in both attack and defence and is a reliable performer, but outside of that he doesn’t really offer a whole lot more, so I’m not too worried about the loss – although Manly get a seasoned campaigner who will likely start each and every week.

    (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    But when was the last time Thompson scattered opponents on a destructive run or put someone on his back with a textbook tackle up under the rib cage? The thing with guys like Thompson is they are fairly predictable each week, whereas someone like Leilua has size, footwork, a deft offload and will attract several defenders to the tackle, something the Dragons have lacked.

    When was the last time they boasted someone like Leilua? Mose Masoe was brought to the club but injuries cruelled any chance he had have making the grade. Going further back, our standout forwards have been the likes of Ben Creagh, Jason Ryles, Luke Bailey, Thompson, Dean Young and Shaun Timmins – all great performers, but not explosive.

    Thompson is a great player no doubt, and his tireless efforts off the field helping troubled youths shouldn’t be ignored, but in terms of his impact on the field, the Dragons are well placed to cover him. Leilua aside, they boast the likes of Jacob Host and Hame Sele, who are coming along nicely, while TJ Euele has plenty of size about him and is an exciting young player to watch.

    The 2018 season shapes as a big year for the club with an exciting roster. Failure to play finals will surely bring the curtain down on Paul McGregor’s term as coach, but in Leilua they may just have the player to save Mary and return the club to better times.

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    The Crowd Says (17)

    • December 23rd 2017 @ 8:27am
      Greg Ambrose said | December 23rd 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      I’m a Manly fan and I agree with your sentiment. I don’t mind Thompson as a player but I’m not that keen either. Maybe his experience in a fairly young Eagles pack will be invaluable. He certainly is an upgrade on Nate Myles. We’ve signed a few forwards over the years who I didn’t rate too highly who proved to be invaluable , Neil Tierney and Joe Gualauvo are two examples. Joe in particular was a gem.

      • Roar Guru

        December 23rd 2017 @ 5:29pm
        eagleJack said | December 23rd 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

        Greg I’ve got to say I’m pretty excited about the Thompson signing. His attitude has always impressed me. You know you’ll get 100% from him each time he steps on the field. He’ll shore up that left edge in defence.

        He’s the leader I think our pack needs. Certainly Trbojevic and Taupau will maintain the senior leadership roles. But Thompson is a nice addition for guys like Sironen, Perrett and AFB to learn from.

        • December 23rd 2017 @ 5:51pm
          Greg Ambrose said | December 23rd 2017 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

          I’ve just read Sham down below and I’m getting keener by the day. A really good defender is what we need on the edge and if the new 5/8 is a good defender we are cooking with gas. Our pack in the recent golden spell was in my opinion nothing too special but their attitude , desire and execution in defence was top shelf and that is more important than anything.

    • Roar Guru

      December 23rd 2017 @ 8:40am
      Walter Penninger said | December 23rd 2017 @ 8:40am | ! Report

      I was disappointed that Leilua did not get his chance in 2017 when the team was struggling in attack.

      I cannot be optimistic that 2018 will be any different with McGregor preferring defence to Leilua’s speed. size and passing. I also cannot get too excited about the new forwards, apart from James Graham who is still primarially a defensive forward and will probably not see the same amount of time as he did at the Bulldogs.

      I would like to see Graham, Frizzel and De Belin spend more time on the field with Leilua, Sims and Vaughan being used for shorter attacking spells.

      The team at this stage looks very settled with wings, centres and halves all settled in the backs, and only Fullback yet to decide with Dufty probably favourite.

      In the forwards while the frontrow looks settled, the loss of Thompson has opened up a second row spot and maybe the preaseason will decide who gets that.

    • December 23rd 2017 @ 10:19am
      paul said | December 23rd 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

      Sad to lose Thompson, but the Dragons have a happy knack of producing quality back rowers, so am not too concerned about his departure

      I just hope the Dragons play the same brand of football throughout 2018, as they did in the first 5 or 6 rounds of 2017. It was great to watch the attack and with Ben Hunt & Widdup leading the way, only a lot of serious injuries would stop this side going a long way into the finals.

    • December 23rd 2017 @ 3:31pm
      Charles NSW said | December 23rd 2017 @ 3:31pm | ! Report

      The Dragons have improved their roster for 2018 but a lot will depend on how we use our juniors if want to be in the top eight.

      We have an experienced forward pack that should utilize some of their junior forwards to give experience which will be needed especially in the representation period.

      In regards to our backline we have to use our juniors to add pressure to those who hold their positions now as in my view they have not performed well, some have had injuries.

      We have a lot of competition in the fullback role with Matt Dufty having the first chance and has made the most of it so far.
      On the wings we had Nightingale and McDonald with Nightingale always dependable and McDonald more suited to the centres than wing. I would consider putting Nightingale in the centres as he can read the play and is well experienced to take on that role. The players I would consider Kurt Mann and Jai Field who are very keen to show what they can do.

      In the centres we had Laffai and Aitken with both not producing their best either by injuries and lacking in attack and defence. With that in thought I would put in Nightingale and use the potential of Zac Lomax to see if we can improve the centre roles.

      With the potential of Hunt and Widdop leading the way in the halves it will be interesting that is for sure. This should be done at the start of the competition with plenty of time to worry about points on the ladder.

      To include the juniors at the start we could have something like this and see how they go!
      1. Matt Dufty
      2. Kurt Mann
      3. Zac Lomax
      4. Jason Nightingale
      5. Jai Field
      6. Gareth Widdop
      7. Ben Hunt
      8. Paul Vaughan
      9. Cameron McInnes
      10. James Graham
      11. Jacob Host
      12. Tyson Frizell
      13. Jack De Belin
      14. Leeson Ah Manu
      15. Tariq Sims
      16. Luciano Leilua
      17. Josh Kerr

      • December 24th 2017 @ 1:07am
        souvalis said | December 24th 2017 @ 1:07am | ! Report

        Disagree about the centers..if Aitken can get his hamstrings right he’ll be a real threat and I thought Lafai showed signs of his best this past season…they’d be in the top 5 center combinations in the NRL for mine..Dufty is the likely candidate for crowd favorite next year,very exciting carrier of the football..

        • December 24th 2017 @ 10:16am
          Charles NSW said | December 24th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          I am saying that the juniors need to have a go at the beginning of the season to show what they have to offer.
          I agree if Aitken gets his hamstrings right he will be a threat but we need to give him time to get it right.
          We need to know what we have to offer right through the team to compete for the top eight.

      • Roar Guru

        December 24th 2017 @ 6:58am
        Walter Penninger said | December 24th 2017 @ 6:58am | ! Report

        Charles,

        With no 9’s this year there is less chance for youngsters to show what they have got and unfortunately, Mcgregor only used youth when forced to last season.

        Mitchell Allgood and Jeremy Latimore were not purchased to sit out the season and will likely be given the first chance ahead of younsters.

        With Frizell and possibily De Belin the only forwards to go missing over the origin period it does not leave much chance for others.

        Looks like they are keeping the Thompson salary cap for possibile mid-season trade.

        • December 24th 2017 @ 10:20am
          Charles NSW said | December 24th 2017 @ 10:20am | ! Report

          Walter, Allgood and Latimore we know what they can do.
          All I am saying give the juniors a go at the beginning and not hold them up until when forced to you.

    • December 23rd 2017 @ 4:03pm
      sham said | December 23rd 2017 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

      He is a first rate defender. He will be missed. Defence is not just about attitude it is also about judgement particularly when defending on an edge like Joel does. A major loss for the Dragons and in my view they do not have him covered.

    • December 23rd 2017 @ 5:10pm
      Steve T said | December 23rd 2017 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

      I thinking the missing point is we are losing an 80 minute forward. Luciano is an impact player and will never play 80. JDB could play 80 and I think Sele would be able to if he can toughen up a bit mentally. Not sure where else we can find one.
      Can’t really see TJ Euele as a first grader.
      Robson 2nd choice hooker now with Havili gone. Cam is pretty unbreakable though so hopefully Robson can get some development time.
      Hope Aitken stays fit. We played our best footy at the start of 2017 with him in the team. He might also make a good bench utility if Lomax makes undeniable giant strides this year.
      Looking forward to a Top 6 finish.

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