It wouldn’t be the start of the NRL season without Dragons fans being filled with optimism and hope for the season ahead.
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The St George Illawarra Dragons had a close look at Jarryd Hayne until he faced criminal charges last year. Now they have signed Corey Norman, so it is clear that the Dragons were after a playmaker to cover the uncertainty regarding Gareth Widdop continuing with the club.
But now they have another playmaker on the books what do they do with Corey Norman?
If Widdop is leaving in 2020 then the Dragons clearly need to play Corey Norman in the Halves, which presumably means that Widdop will go to fullback forcing the incumbent Dufty out of that position.
Norman did not have a good year by his standards in 2018, but he clearly has an attacking spark which could lift the Dragons in 2019. Dufty showed great speed from fullback last year and for a small player was able to demonstrate substantial durability over the season.
At the very least, it is clear that Dragons have great depth now in the halves, but they also have the ability to switch and swap players from fullback into the halves during a game which should give them a depth of attacking options.
But all this leaves Dufty either playing in the ISP, on the wing like ex-Dragons great slippery Morris or coming off the bench as an impact player with his acceleration against tiring opponents.
Apart from height – or rather lack of it, I fancy Dufty as a winger who can come in-field during the game to try to make a break when the opportunity arises. Putting Dufty on the bench is in my view – not the preferred alternative.
Otherwise, the Dragons are essentially the same team as last year but one year wiser and perhaps stronger and more confident, but the sexual assault charges hanging over Dragons forward De Belin will obviously be a major distraction during the season, which they tried to avoid by not hiring Hayne.
With Widdop currently a captain, I would suggest that the Dragons will give consideration to a dual captaincy this year with a view to Widdop possibly leaving in 2020.
I expect Dragons to make the top four in the NRL this year, with their forwards being slightly stronger and their backs having more attacking options with Corey Norman in the halves.