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When Corey Norman was released by the Parramatta Eels to sign with the St George Illawarra Dragons, many Saints fans raised their eyebrows, here’s why.
Firstly, he is known for many off-field dramas throughout his career. In 2016, he had a night out at the Star Casino, involved in drug use, filming inappropriate content and seen consorting with known criminals.
Last year while on the injured list for the Eels, he was seen drinking on social media, going against the club rules.
Is this the type of player the Dragons need, when they are considered a premiership threat going into the 2019 season?
Certainly not. They have done well to assemble a squad with no dickheads.
In recent years bad boys Josh Dugan and Russell Packer have been offloaded to other clubs.
The last thing the Dragons need is to deal with poor behaviour off the field, which puts pressure on the players and coaches to answer questions in media conferences.
This has the effect of putting the club in the papers for the wrong reasons, which ultimately results in poor performances for the club.
Take the Brisbane Broncos for example. The players and coaches were constantly questioned about the future of coach Wayne Bennett.
The toll this took on the club was evident through their early finals exit.
Another problem with the signature of Norman is the question marks which now surround fullback Matt Dufty.
There is no doubt the young fullback made mistakes in his first season as an NRL fullback but there is also no doubting his ability.
Throughout the 26 games he played, he scored 13 tries, had nine try assists and 16 line breaks.
To put this into perspective, he scored more tries and had more line breaks than Australian fullback James Tedesco.
Also, there were several games the Dragons couldn’t have won without the pint-sized fullback.
Without him, the Dragons may not have finished in the top eight – which shows the impact he has on the team.
Having Dufty in the reserves would be a waste, especially when you consider his replacement played in a team who finished last in 2018.
Many Dragons fans have become outraged at the recruitment over the last couple of years; management has been known to back the older players over the younger, developing players.
Young guns Hame Sele, Patrick Herbert and Reuben Garrick were all let go while the Dragons focused on re-signing has-beens like Jeremy Latimore.
Another issue is, where does Norman fit in? Does Paul McGregor want to change the incredible partnership Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt formed in the halves? It’s unlikely.
Norman has played 32 NRL games at fullback, but there is also a suggestion he might fill no.6 while Widdop goes to fullback.
Hunt and Norman have played together in the halves at the Broncos but that combination was unsuccessful.
If Mary was to be more radical, he may move Hunt to hooker and give Norman a go at halfback.
However, this is improbable because both Norman and Widdop aren’t organising halves and the purpose of Hunt’s move to the Dragons was to provide more leadership in the halves.
Norman’s arrival will relieve the pressure on Gareth Widdop to see out his contract with the Dragons. It was revealed in November he desires to return to England.
With Norman able to play his position, he won’t feel as though he needs to stay as they have a suitable replacement.
Losing a player of Widdop’s calibre reduces the Dragons from a premiership threat to just a top eight contender.
The Dragons’ recruitment needs to come under further scrutiny with the way they are spending their cash.
They are already spending upwards of two million dollars on their current halves, and they will now be spending an estimated $500-600k on Norman.
Clearly, too much focus is being placed on having good halves, instead of outside backs, which is the weak point of the club.
Having lost both Jason Nightingale and Nene Macdonald, the Dragons definitely need to upgrade their wingers.
Recently, Corey Oates was on the open market, it is outrageous that the cash wasn’t thrown at him and rather at a playmaker whose team finished last and plays a position already filled at the Dragons.
Especially when you consider that the Sydney Roosters won the 2018 premiership off the back of big metres made from wingers Blake Ferguson and Daniel Tupou – which helped the forwards massively by giving them a break and allowing them to focus on defence.
It is hard to see likely Dragons wingers Zac Lomax and Jonus Pearson do the job the Roosters wingers did, which may be their downfall.