The embattled St George Illawarra Dragons have confirmed the signing of Shane Flanagan as their new assistant coach on a one-year deal.
Following the deregistration of the former Cronulla coach for his involvement in the Sharks during a prior suspension for the drug scandal which rocked the club and competition, the NRL have confirmed he can commence at the Red V from late December.
Current Dragons head coach Paul McGregor has been under the pump for a string of poor results since he took over from Steve Price in the middle of 2014. Given Flanagan’s success at the Sharks, Dragons fans are hopeful that Flanagan can turn the club around, and McGregor was happy to have him on board.
“Shane will be a valuable asset to the Dragons’ endeavours in 2020. His success has been proven time and time again over many years and we’re glad to have him on board,” McGregor said in a statement released by the club.
2019 was a horrendous year for the Dragons, with the proud club falling to 15th on the ladder by the end of the season, despite a talented roster being on display.
Off-field problems didn’t help the Dragons throughout 2019 as they dealt with the fallout from the Jack de Belin court case, while key injuries to Gareth Widdop, Tyson Frizell and James Graham also hurt the club’s momentum. However, 15th is the lowest finish in club history, dating back to 1999.
The season’s form brought about a detailed end of season review, conducted by Phil Gould, and resulted in numerous changes to staff at the club, including the departure of Ben Hornby.
Flanagan’s arrival is expected to help McGregor at the head of the club, with a 63 per cent winning percentage during his second stint at the Sharks from 2015 to 2018, including the breakthrough 2016 premiership for the club.
Flanagan has a reputation as a tough operator, and his defensive structures at Cronulla were evident, with the Sharks finishing in the top four for fewest points conceded in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
That’s in stark contrast to the Dragons, who conceded the second-most points last season, and it’s thought fixing the defence will be one of the main tasks for Flanagan.
McGregor holds just a 47 per cent winning percentage since taking over the Dragons in 2014, with only two finals appearances, both from the bottom half of the top eight, in his five full seasons at the joint venture.