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Opinion

The forgotten players: St George Dragons

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Roar Guru
10th November, 2020
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Nearly 700 players represented the famous St George Dragons and while we’re familiar with legends including Johnny Raper, Reg Gasnier, Brian Clay, Billy Smith, Norm Provan and Graeme Langlands, many players’ careers as a Dragon was brief.

This article covers players who represented the club from when I started watching the game in the mid-60s up until the merger with Illawarra at the beginning of the 1999 season.

1. Ray Laird
The late Ray Laird hailed from North Queensland and he only played two first-grade games for the Dragons before returning to his home state.

He was a bit of a Queensland legend though, representing the Maroons on 15 occasions in the pre-Origin era, and also played one Test for Australia in 1970, replacing the injured Graeme Langlands.

2. Ross Popplewell
Popplewell was still at school when promoted to first grade by master coach Jack Gibson, for one game in 1970. It appeared that the sky was the limit, however it was his one and only game.

3. Warren Ryan
Ryan has done pretty much everything in the game. He was a successful coach with a win record of 56 per cent across over 400 games, a well-known broadcaster, and first-grade player.

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He played just one game for the Dragons, in 1965, before moving to Cronulla for the next three years.

4. Steve Halliwell
The English-born journeyman played 117 top-grade games across seven clubs in eight years, both in Australia and England. An Australian schoolboy rugby union representative, his sole appearance for the Dragons came as a 19-year-old in 1981.

5. Joel Caine
We all know Caine as a TV presenter and betting spruiker, but before that he had quite a successful rugby league career, notching up nearly 130 games in Australia and England across seven seasons.

He got his start at the Red V in 1998, playing three games.

6. Steve Price
The former St George Illawarra coach and current Warrington coach played nine games for the Dragons in 1997 before finishing his playing career with Balmain.

7. Peter Gentle
After starting his career in England, Gentle’s three first-grade games in Australia came in the 1987 and 1988 seasons.

Since hanging up the boots, he has forged a successful coaching career and will be assistant to Anthony Griffin at the Dragons next year.

8. Jeff Wittenberg
Like his father, John, Jeff Wittenberg was a big front-row forward, however he did not emulate his father’s success, playing just one game for St George in 1993 before moving to the South Queensland Crushers and then finishing his career in England.

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9. Shane Flanagan
Yet another coach from the Dragons’ playing ranks, the St George junior played three first grade games for the Red V in 1987. He had more success in the 1989 to 1994 seasons, playing over 70 games for Wests and Parramatta.

Flanagan (in)famously coached Cronulla between 2010 and 2018, guiding them to their first-ever premiership in 2016.

Shane Flanagan

Shane Flanagan. (Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

10. George Moroko
Moroko was a big, hard forward and a Wests junior who played 46 games for Wests and Cronulla before joining St George for the 1985 season, earning just two appearances.

11. Mick Dryden
A tall, hard-working forward who played four games for the Dragons in the 1970 and 1971 seasons. Dryden had one more season, and one more first-grade game, with Balmain in 1972 before hanging up his boots.

12. Marc Glanville
Hailing from Wagga, Glanville was a talented back-row forward who began his career with the Dragons in 1986 and played eight games over the ’86 and ’87 seasons.

He went on to play nearly 190 games with Newcastle over the next ten years before finishing his career in England.

13. Matt Fuller
The talented and versatile Fuller could play anywhere in the pack. He played over 150 games in both Australia and England in an 11-year career, including three for the Dragons in 1992.

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14. Mark Ellison
A good goal kicker who was equally at home at either five-eighth or in the back row, Ellison played his final season in the league with St George in 1991, notching five games, after over 100 matches with Souths and Cronulla.

15. Gavin Allen
A hard working prop from far north Queensland, Allen’s debut came with St George in the 1987 season, when he was selected in two games.

Returning to the Sunshine Stae he became a regular with the Broncos from 1990 to 1995 and was selected in eight Origin games.

16. Trevor Levin
A front rower, Levin played four games for St George in 1966, including their 11th consecutive grand final victory. He moved to Cronulla in 1967 and notched up a further 15 games over three years.

17. Rick Powell
A rugged prop and great clubman, Powell came through the St George juniors and played eight games between ’82 and ’86.

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Special mention should be given to fullback and prolific goal kicker Allan McKean, who played one game for the Dragons in ’65 and then returned in ’75 to play two more. In between though, the St George junior featured in 120 games for the Roosters, scoring over 900 points, and was selected in one Test match for Australia in 1970, kicking seven goals in a losing team.