St George Illawarra Dragons 2017 season review

Eddie Otto Roar Guru

By Eddie Otto, Eddie Otto is a Roar Guru

 , ,

8 Have your say

    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.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (8)

    • October 11th 2017 @ 7:07am
      Gurudoright said | October 11th 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

      As a Dragons fan I must admit I was a little disappointed at missing the finals. Disappointed it not upset, I, like many had the Dragons pegged for the bottom 4 before the season. So to finish with 12-12 win-loss record is quite pleasing. For me, seeing Jack De Balin continue to improve was a highlight. I don’t think we will miss much with Dugan but like the article I am concerned about the lack of mongrel in the pack with Packer going. I feeling more confident about next season than this season.

    • October 11th 2017 @ 10:30am
      Gus Paella said | October 11th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

      James Graham is coming in 2018 right?

    • October 11th 2017 @ 12:16pm
      The Koomz said | October 11th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

      I will go as far to say Dragons will play finals in 2018 finishing 6th.

    • Roar Guru

      October 11th 2017 @ 12:31pm
      The Barry said | October 11th 2017 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      Funny season for the Dragons. I’m sure most fans are disappointed in missing the 8 after the cracking start they had but really if told at the start of the season the Dragons would be 12-12 and miss the semis by a game, most would have called it successful.

      Despite his age I’d call Packer for Graham an upgrade. I reckon the Dragons lack a forward leader like Graham and guys like Vaughan, JDB, Frizell, McInnes, Ah Mau etc could really learn a lot and take their game to the next level with him.

      I know this will be unpopular but I think they’re most disappointing player is Frizell. Should be a world beater by now with his size, pace, tackle busting ability, defensive hits and a couple of seasons of rep footy under his belt. I reckon he goes missing regularly in games and while his contributions are still ok the volume is pretty poor. He’s a good player but should be beyond that. Gets rated on his best performances which are actually few and far between.

    • October 11th 2017 @ 3:00pm
      Farqueue said | October 11th 2017 @ 3:00pm | ! Report

      Losing duges is a massive blow.
      He is our best back by a mile.
      Packer big loss also and although Graham seems like a good player I think maybe there is not much left in him. Passionate players burn out quicker.
      I don’t think we got lucky in any of our wins this year but I’m damn sure we were unlucky in some losses. Cronulla and Newcastle games come to mind.

    • October 11th 2017 @ 3:47pm
      Paul said | October 11th 2017 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

      I thought the Dragons had a terrific year. Yes it would have been nice to make the finals but the side simply wasn’t playing well enough at the back end of the season and if they had made the final 8, I suspect they might have copped a flogging in their only finals game.

      Eddie’s summary is excellent, though I would have Jack de Bellin as my best, followed a close second by Vaughn. I reckon both guys were unlucky not to play rep footy this year.

      It would be nice to know what caused the fadeout to the side in the second half of the season? Obviously there were injuries to key players, but this happened to a number of sides. Maybe it was a loss of form or confidence? It’s hard to know when they can lose a bunch of games in a row, then put more than 50 on Manly? Hopefully Mary can sort this out.

      Happy Duggan’s gone; talented player, but he is all about himself and cares little about the team – his effort at being on time for the Penrith game, which was crucial in the run home, was appalling.

      IF Hunt can integrate into the team and build on the form he showed for the Broncos in the second half of the season, I think the Dragons should be a top 4 side. Here’s hoping anyway.

      • October 12th 2017 @ 12:46pm
        Eddie Otto said | October 12th 2017 @ 12:46pm | ! Report

        Fair call Paul Jack De Belin was really strong this year. Most of the Dragons pack i thought were great although they did looked banged up towards the end of the season. Whilst the loss of Packer is a big one a rejuvenated James Graham will be a good signing and a great boost in the dressing room in terms of his leadership.

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    , ,