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Dear Hook: Listen to me if you want to survive

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Roar Guru
28th March, 2022
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Fans of the Terminator movie franchise will recognise the title of this article as a paraphrase of the line delivered in life and death situations in three of the classic Cyborg-centric movies. I’m just hoping that Anthony Griffin is as good at taking life and death advice as Sarah Connor.

We’re not only talking about his life or death as a coach here, but also the Dragon’s 2022 season.

After the excitement of finally winning a Charity Shield trial game against South Sydney, the Dragons kicked the year off with a 12-point win over the Warriors, and then backed that up with a narrow Round 2 loss to last year’s premiers Penrith.

Despite losing that game, the Dragons kept the Panthers scoreless in the second half, looked better in both attack and defence than they did at any time last season, and might have won the game but for some poor discipline and players spending time in the sin bin.

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Then, on Friday, they came back to the field when they were soundly defeated at home in their Round 3 clash with Cronulla. Sure, the sin bins and discipline were a problem once again, but given they had as much ball as the opposition, the real reason for their loss was their failure to use the ball effectively, and an inability to get off their own line.

Griffin celebrated his 200th first grade coaching milestone on Thursday but it wasn’t a game for his scrapbook. His win record to date with the Dragons sits at 33 per cent. That’s way down on the 55.5 per cent success rate that he achieved before joining the Dragons, and nowhere near good enough for a team to be competitive.

Despite his recent – and inexplicable – contract extension, Griffin should be under no illusions that further poor performances will have the Dragons fans baying for his blood.

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Anthony Griffin

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Given that the Dragons’ next four matches are against 2021 finalists in Parramatta, South Sydney, Newcastle and the Sydney Roosters, it’s quite possible that they could be sitting in last place at the end of Round 7 with just one win to their name. If that happens, Hook may need more than Sgt. Kyle Reese to lead him to safety.

Griffin has assembled the squad he wanted, and it’s time he used them effectively. He just needs to make some subtle changes in order to challenge the opposition week-in, week-out, and most of the changes just involve a tweak of the ineffective left edge. Here are four changes I’d like to see.

1. Get Jack de Belin off the bench and into the 13 jersey

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The Dragons go-forward and link plays, particularly involving the right side attack, are far more effective when De Belin is on the field. There’s no better lock in the club, what the hell is he doing on the bench?

2. Move Tariq Sims from lock to left side second row

Sims isn’t a lock forward, never has been, so why muck him around at the age of 32? He is a very good edge player though, so put him where he’s most effective and let him both stiffen up the left edge defence and run those straight lines off Ben Hunt at the opposing halves.

3. Shift Jack Bird from left-side second row to left centre

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Bird looks the man most likely to break the line on the left edge and the extra room will increase his attacking opportunities. He’s also a better lateral defender than Moses Suli and can actually pass the ball to a winger or other support, something I don’t think Suli’s managed to do thus far this season.

4. Drop Cody Ramsey and put big Suli on the wing

Cody Ramsey has plenty of pace but he’s not getting a chance to use it playing outside Suli, who is essentially just a ball runner with no passing game. Suli also outweighs Ramsey by about 20 kilos and should make more of an impact helping Mikaele Ravalawa bring the ball back off the Dragons’ line.

Playing a little wider, and outside Bird, should also provide more opportunities for Suli in general play, as he is at his most dangerous when he has a full head of steam.

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Let’s see what Griffin comes up with over the next few weeks.

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