For the past few years, the St George Illawarra Dragons have struggled to score points, but could an injection of youth spark their attack and get them breathing fire again?
When looking at the Dragons squad there’s a lot of players in the peak, or middle of their careers. Josh Dugan, Gareth Widdop, Joel Thompson, Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims, Paul Vaughan, the list goes on.
Now while there is a great amount of experience in those names alone, balance is the key for any NRL side hoping to take out the competition.
I’m a firm believer that a premiership-winning side needs an experienced team with a dash of youth.
This is where the likes of Matt Dufty, Luciano Leilua, and recent sensation Jai Field come into play.
I haven’t seen much of any of these lads, but based on what I have seen, along with the hype around them, I have a feeling they’ll be getting a good taste of NRL this year.
We all know of Joey Leilua’s size and barging style of play at the Raiders, and his younger brother is no different.
Young Luciano stands at 186cm and weighs a whopping 112kg.
Able to play in the backrow, he faces a lot of competition from teammates Sims, Thompson and Frizell, but his impact off the bench will be needed during games and will be on show.
NYC standout Matt Dufty appears to be Josh Dugan’s main rival for the fullback jersey.
The St George junior ran amock in the underage competitions and will by vying for a spot in first grade, and I think by year’s end he will be wearing the #1 jersey on his back.
His fleet-footed style of play is something that can’t be taught and will be a great attacking point for the Dragons should he make the cut.
Finally we have half Jai Field, who tore his opponents to shreds just this weekend at the Auckland Nines.
Now I am aware that the Nines format and the 13-a-side game are completely different, but the glimpses of speed and playmaking from this kid are sure to make Red V fans excited.
With the season ending injury to promising half Drew Hutchison, the Dragons have a few options to throw in the halfback position. They could go with steady seasoned veteran Josh McCrone, upgraded Illawarra Cutters player Shaun Nona, or young gun Field.
While the halfback role is a very important one, I feel as though Field is the best fit for the team, and is the one I wanted to elaborate on.
Firstly, five-eighth and captain Gareth Widdop is an experienced campaigner and is an organiser, so someone with pace and unique style of play would do wonders for him, and Field fits the bill there.
Another great thing about young halfbacks is that they’re unpredictable and confident.
Look at how rookies Ash Taylor and Nathan Cleary did last season. Their input lead to their teams playing in the finals, and I have no doubt that Field could do the same for the Dragons.
It’s all fine and well to have an experienced NRL side, but you also need a sprinkle of youth, and I think this trio of Dragons could do wonders for their club in 2017.