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Discussion in 'St George Illawarra Dragons' started by getsmarty, Nov 29, 2016.

  1. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Dugan pushes for early Dragons return, as Cowboys hit by NRL injury crisis

    Tim Barrow@@TheBarrow

    10 Apr 2017, 1:12 p.m.


    AS INJURY-hit North Queensland lurch closer to crisis point, Dragons forward Joel Thompson is determined to prove St George Illawarra’s title credentials in a month of games against the NRL’s “big dogs”.

    Windang and Port Kembla junior Kane Linnett became the latest Cowboys player hurt, struggling with a leg problem on Monday and in doubt for Saturday’s game at WIN Stadium.

    [​IMG]
    Stick at it: Josh Dugan runs on Monday. Picture: Adam McLean

    It comes after superstar halfback Johnathan Thurston suffered a calf injury in the loss to the Tigers, which will keep him out for at least three weeks.

    The Cowboys are already missing Jake Granville and Shaun Fensom (leg), Antonio Winterstein (broken arm) and Matt Scott (knee). In contrast, fullback Josh Dugan is an outside chance to play on Saturday, as he completed light running duties at a training session at WIN Stadium on Monday.

    St George Illawarra tackle the Roosters on Anzac Day, then last year’s grand finalists Melbourne and premiers Cronulla after the Cowboys in what could be a season-defining month.

    The Dragons surged to the top of the NRL charts after the Storm succumbed to the Sharks in torrential Melbourne rain on Sunday.

    “There’s some big dogs we’ve got coming up,” Thompson said.

    “Yeah, we’ve got all the big boys, it’s going to test us as a team and where we’re at, the character of the team and if we can stand up and deliver.”

    A crushing 34-16 loss to Parramatta at WIN Stadium is the only blemish on a stunning start to the season for the Dragons.

    While the Cowboys are facing life without key troops, Thompson said the Dragons had to steel themselves for a battle against the benchmark forward pack of recent seasons.

    “They’ve been the top forward pack over the last few years,” he said.

    “So it’s going to be a great challenge for us, they’ve got great depth, great players to come in there.

    “Everyone is thinking it should be an easy game, but it won’t be, they’ll come here ready to play, they’ll be passionate and we’ve got to be ready for that.”

    A hamstring strain in the victory over Wests meant Dugan missed the thumping 36-10 win over Manly.

    http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/...eturn-as-cowboys-hit-by-injury-crisis/?cs=302
     
  2. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    St George Illawarra urged to re-sign Gareth Widdop as Wests Tigers circle
    By Stuart Honeysett
    15 hours ago

    St George Illawarra has been urged to re-sign captain Gareth Widdop with Wests Tigers rapidly circling the in-form Dragons playmaker as a replacement for Parramatta-bound Mitchell Moses.

    The Tigers are quickly moving to a "Plan B" scenario with concerns that fullback James Tedesco and captain Aaron Woods will also follow Moses out the door, with the only member of "The Big Four" at the moment who has agreed to stay on next season being halfback Luke Brooks.

    The Dragons are keen to retain Widdop but face a battle with fullback Josh Dugan also off contract and the club already having paid out big money to recruit Brisbane's Ben Hunt for next season. Paul Vaughan was also lured from Canberra this year while Jack De Belin recently re-signed.

    The Tigers have also been linked to Shaun Johnson and Josh Reynolds but Widdop is more of a priority as he is seen as more of a steadying influence to partner Brooks in the halves. The Tigers have also been linked to prop Ben Matulino if Wood elects to leave.

    The Widdop situation is reflective of the volatile market at the moment with a number of quality players coming off contract at the end of this year including Woods, Brooks, Moses, Tedesco, Johnson, Widdop, Dugan, Reynolds, Kieran Foran, Jack Bird, and Chad Townsend.


    Speaking with fellow Channel Nine commentator James Bracey on his weekly "Sterlo's Wrap-Up" segment, Peter Sterling said the Dragons needed to do whatever they could to retain Widdop who he described as being in "career-best form" and one of the reasons behind the club's success.

    St George Illawarra were not expected to make the top eight this season after a disappointing 2016 campaign but have won their last four matches to be surprise leaders at the top of the table.

    "I think you've got to grab him," Sterling said.

    "He's a quality player and (Josh) McCrone does a good job alongside him but this was a tremendous win and he was close to the best on the park (against Manly)."

    Sterling also said he didn't subscribe to the popular belief that the Dragons bubble would eventually burst the longer the season wore on.

    He said he had been impressed by their start against the Sea Eagles and also said that off-contract coach Paul McGregor deserved a new deal from the club.

    "I think he's done a good job and I think the one thing Paul McGregor has learned is that he got distracted by too many other matters apart from coaching the football team last year," Sterling said.

    "He was worried about recruitment and this and that. As a coach you really need to be focussed and I think he's got everything in order this season and it's showing."

    Read more at http://wwos.nine.com.au/2017/04/10/...op-as-wests-tigers-circle#jET3EvQwxyQGetcW.99
     
  3. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    NRL history against flying Dragons’ title hopes

    Tim Barrow@@TheBarrow

    11 Apr 2017, 9:28 a.m.
    [​IMG]

    Chance: Forward Joel Thompson tries to take a catch during a training session with a difference at WIN Stadium. Picture: Adam McLean

    THEY’VE shocked the NRL with a flying 5-1 start.

    But as they face a season-defining month, can ladder-leading St George Illawarra be considered a genuine premiership contender?

    An analysis of the 16-team, 26-round, two-bye format suggests their early form almost certainly guarantees them finals action, but is anything but a recipe for success in September and October.

    Of the 13 teams since 2008 to start 5-1 or better – Melbourne were unbeaten after six rounds in 2012 and 2013 – just two have won the premiership.

    It means the Dragons would have to emulate their drought-breaking, fairytale counterparts from 2010 and Melbourne’s redemption success in 2012.

    The Storm won the title after being stripped of premierships in 2007 and 2009 because of the salary cap scandal.

    Those NRL years have not been included in the analysis as a result.

    Only two of the 13 teams to match the Dragons start in the past decade have missed the finals, the Gold Coast crashing to 14th in 2014 and 13th in 2008.

    St George Illawarra have a golden opportunity to move to 6-1, when they take on a North Queensland outfit without the star power of Johnathan Thurston, Jake Granville and Matt Scott at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.

    It comes before the Anzac Day battle against the Roosters, then dates with last year’s grand final combatants Melbourne and Cronulla.

    “We would have wanted that one more against Eels, we’d be six out of six,” second-rower Joel Thompson said.

    “But we’ve been going good, the results from the work we’ve put in.

    “I can’t talk enough about how much every individual out there is wanting to push and the best performance they can and know their role the best they can.”

    The Dragons remarkable transformation is reflected in being ranked No.1 in attack this year, with 163 points and second in defence, conceding just 82. The Storm’s 2012 team piled on 198 in six rounds (first) and 79 against (second).

    So dominant was the Dragons defence in 2010, they let in just 65 points (first), but scored only 134, ranked seventh at the time.

    If you’re still not convinced by the numbers, they do show the extent of the Paul McGregor-led overhaul.

    Last year, the Dragons managed just 40 points in the opening six rounds, clearly the lowest in the competition.

    Thompson openly admits last year’s failures is fuelling this season’s early success.

    “We’ve used last year as a sort of motivation, no one wants to feel like we did last year,” he said.

    “It was absolutely horrible, everyone was copping criticism and it was unfair on a lot of the players, like Gareth (Widdop) and the coaches.

    “We’ve come in here (this year) with a little bit of fire in us.”

    • SET THE PACE
    How teams who started 5-1 (or better) finished in the 16-team, 26-round NRL era. The 2009 and 2007 seasons are not included due to the Storm’s salary cap scandals.

    2016 – Broncos: 5-1 (Ladder: Fifth; Finish: Semi-finals)

    2015 – Broncos: 5-1 (Ladder: Second; Finish: Runner-up)

    2014 – Titans: 5-1 (Ladder: 14th)

    2013 – Storm: 6-0 (Ladder: Third; Finish: Semi-finals); Sea Eagles: 5-1 (Ladder: Fourth; Finish: Runner-up); Rabbitohs: 5-1 (Ladder: Second; Finish: Preliminary final)

    2012 – Storm: 6-0 (Ladder: Second; Finish: Premiers); Broncos: 5-1 (Ladder: Eighth; Finish: Elimination final).

    2011 – Storm: 5-1 (Ladder: First; Finish: Preliminary final); Broncos: 5-1 (Ladder: Third; Finish: Preliminary final); Dragons: 5-1 (Ladder: Fifth; Finish: Semi-final)

    2010 – Dragons: 5-1 (Ladder: First; Finish: Premiers)

    2008 – Titans: 5-1 (Ladder: 13th)

    • NRL
    Round seven

    Saturday (7.30pm)

    DRAGONS v COWBOYS

    WIN Stadium

    TV: Live on Fox Sports 502

    http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/4590317/history-against-flying-dragons-title-hopes/?cs=302
     
  4. Divine

    Divine Bench

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    ...having lost insufficient games this year Dragons statistically are no chance.
     
    Drakon and BankstownDragon like this.
  5. possm

    possm First Grade

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    We are the Dragons so just compare us to the premiers of 2010 and you have the answer.
     
    Divine likes this.
  6. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    St George Illawarra Dragons centre Euan Aitken wants NRL to reconsider City-Country axe
    Andrew Parkinson
    12 Apr 2017, 5 a.m.
    [​IMG]

    Strong start: Dragons centre Euan Aitken celebrates a try against local rivals Cronulla. Picture: Chris Lane

    St George Illawarra centre Euan Aitken believes the NRL should reconsider axing the annual City-Country fixture.

    Aitken made his representative debut for Country in their 44-30 defeat to City at Tamworth last season and has been in outstanding form to start this campaign, helping the Dragons march to the top of the NRL table after six rounds.

    City against Country has been played annually since 1928 but this year’s match, to be played at Mudgee on May 7, will be the last ever, ending 89 years of tradition.

    The fixture has often been used as an audition for State of Origin for aspiring New South Wales players and Aitken said he was desperate to play in the final ever City-Country clash.

    “Obviously I’m a proud Country boy, it’s where I grew up and it shaped me as a person. I’m sad to see it go, I thought there was a part for it in the game,” he said.

    “It’d be good to give back to the Country people because they’ve raised so much talent. There’s a fair bit of talent playing in the NRL from the country. It’s sad to see it go.”

    [​IMG]
    Tradition: Euan Aitken scores for Country against City in Tamworth last season. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

    Aitken played his junior rugby league with the Merimbula-Pambula Bulldogs on the NSW south coast before a stint with the Shellharbour Sharks.

    I’m sad to see it go, I thought there was a part for it in the game. - Euan Aitken

    The 21-year-old, who has also represented at international level with Scotland, signed a contract extension with the Dragons in February that will keep him in the red v until 2020.

    Aitken said the game was popular with his Country teammates.

    “I can’t speak for the City team obviously but everyone in the Country team always loves representing the Country,” he said.

    “It’s always good to give back to country areas and take games back to the country. Everyone enjoys supporting it and it’s good to give back when you go out to schools and things in the rural areas.”

    Aitken has enjoyed a strong start to the season and starred for the Dragons with two tries in their 35-10 thrashing of Manly on Saturday. He said he now had eyes on higher representative honours.

    “I do have aspirations to play at a higher level for NSW and Australia. It’s always the ultimate dream and I want to keep progressing to be in those sorts of teams,” Aitken said.

    “My start to the season has been a little inconsistent. I played good in [games] one and three but the second game [against Parramatta] I wasn’t too happy with.

    “I just wanted to make sure I got everything right from that game and I had a good bounce back against the Sharks. I just want to make sure I’m keeping at that top level and not having up and down games.”

    http://www.theleader.com.au/story/4558839/aitken-wants-nrl-to-reconsider-city-country-axe/?cs=3833
     
  7. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Stats Insider: Paul McGregor’s miracle, Dragons’ incredible transformation broken down

    AFTER a disappointing 11th-placed finish in 2016, St George Illawarra’s summer flashed by without much to take the eye.
    What was needed, according to most armchair critics, was a drastic overhaul of a popgun attack that fired blanks to the tune of just 341 points for the season.

    To put that number in context, only Newcastle scored less, and not by much.

    Out the door went Benji Marshall and Mitch Rein, leaving just enough salary cap space to make a bit of a splash and spice up the misfiring spine.

    But the Dragons failed with their attempts to lure Luke Keary, Lachlan Coote and others. They wound up with a Rabbitohs hooker who’d failed to develop into the player they expected him to be and a front-rower languishing in reserve grade.

    Still no halfback to replace Benji and very little stardust to sprinkle onto a stale formula.

    It’s with that context in mind that the Dragons’ transformation to the most lethal attacking side in the competition is something to marvel at.

    The numbers show how it’s happened and some of the improvements are out of this world.

    THE NO FRILLS RECRUITS

    [​IMG]
    Cameron McInnes kicks the ball for the Dragons.Source: News Corp Australia
    When Paul Vaughan signed to join the Red V on a contract reportedly worth $1.75 million over three years, it took plenty by surprise.

    Not only did it seem obscene to pay that amount for a front-rower who was struggling to stay relevant as a first-grader, the forward pack didn’t seem to be the area that needed improvement.

    Cameron McInnes, another player to have lost his place in first grade by the end of 2016, was the sole addition to the spine.

    Since his emergence, it had been said that McInnes was a player with a high ceiling but the same had been said of Rein, who had found himself in Origin selection conversations less than 12 months before he was shown the door.

    To be blunt, it was uncertain if the Dragons had even got a trade-up.

    Looking at the moves in hindsight, it’s clear that coach Paul McGregor was able to formulate a specific plan for both and the execution has been perfect.

    Vaughan established a reputation as a representative star of the future at Canberra primarily due to his metre-eating ability — an important plank of McGregor’s new attacking blueprint.

    Averaging 156 metres per game, Vaughan is the Dragons’ running metres leader and is in the top 15 by that measure across the competition.

    After battling to reach his potential at the Rabbitohs, McInnes has revelled in his move and in some key areas, he’s already surpassed Rein’s complete body of work in 2016.

    From just six games, McInnes has four try assists, doubling Rein’s effort across the full season, and has already equalled his season tally for linebreak assists with three.

    He’s also on track to surpass Rein for tries and linebreaks, with McInnes’ running threat coming into play on the back of some powerful performances from Vaughan and the club’s other big men.

    DOING IT BY HALVES


    [​IMG]
    Widdop's effort ices the cake

    0:53
    After a sensational first season at the Dragons, Gareth Widdop’s form started to dip in 2015 and tanked badly last year, creating some serious question marks over his future in the NRL.

    Coming off contract at the end of this season, Widdop has been arguably the form half in the competition over the first six weeks, orchestrating plenty of his side’s best moments and finding the finishing touches to put him among the competition’s leading try-scorers.

    Widdop has crossed for five tries in six games, putting him just one four-pointer behind his total tally for last season.

    He’s halfway to his 2016 try assist tally with six compared to last year’s 13 and is just three linebreak assists shy of the eight he finished with from 24 games.

    Widdop came to the Dragons from the Storm because he wanted to be the main man, and was never going to be in a side that had Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater.

    That exalted place in his team did him wonders in 2014 and it might explain his dip in form when Benji Marshall joined the club to partner him the following season.

    The Dragons tried to go out and get a quality half to pair with Widdop after deciding not to re-sign Marshall but sticking with what they already had in the squad is starting to look like an accidental masterstroke.

    Not only is the five-eighth firing on all cylinders, the unfancied No.7 next to him is too.

    Josh McCrone’s best years in the NRL were largely considered to be behind him but his four try assist game against Manly showed he’s still got plenty to offer.

    That performance was no flash in the pan either, with McCrone on track to match Marshall’s 16 game output last year within the same bracket of time and to well and truly surpass him in the column that matters most — wins.

    Marshall was part of six wins last season and McCrone’s already won five in the No.7 jersey.

    He’s racked up six try assists, almost half of Marshall’s total of 13, and scored one try to Marshall’s two — although he is a fraction behind the pace in linebreaks and linebreak assists.

    Individually, both McCrone and Widdop are having excellent seasons but more importantly they seem to complement each other, with both playing to a tee their clearly-defined roles.

    THE JDB EFFECT

    [​IMG]
    Jack De Belin has been exceptional for the Dragons.Source: News Corp Australia
    While the new parts in the Dragons line up are the obvious ones to look at when analysing why the team has found so much improvement, Jack De Belin’s start to the season is just as valid a place to look.

    For quite a few seasons now, De Belin has been considered a potential star but he’s never quite been able to put it together consistently on the field.

    To be fair, that could be said about St George Illawarra’s forward pack from a broader perspective, with an impressive array of names in a pack sprinkled with representative stars that for some reason just didn’t do the job as a unit.

    In the first six rounds last year, the Dragons as a collective had run for 1361 metres, putting them 13th in the competition. This year, they’re up in second spot with 1492.

    The side has also gone from 11th for tackle busts to third, and from ninth for offloads to seventh.

    Put all of those statistics together and you are going to have a much better attacking outfit. De Belin is an outstanding case study for the improvement.

    While he’s averaging four less minutes than he did in 2016, De Belin has increased his output in every area.

    He is averaging 12.3 runs per game, up from 11 last year, and 107 metres, up from 96 last year.

    De Belin already has two tries, double his one from last year, and he’s busted 17 tackles, which is just eight less than he tallied in his 21 games last season.

    He’s also offloading the ball more, with 10 already chalked up, compared to his 16 for the whole of last season.

    http://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nrl...n/news-story/87d8f311ff60cda0289f6341bc6667d2
     
  8. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    DUGAN’S NO. 1 BLUEPRINT TO STAY AT DRAGONS

    Josh Dugan finds himself between a rock and a hard place.

    He wants to be an NRL fullback. Which he is, but the Dragons don’t want him to be for much longer. The club wants him to move to the centres in 2018.

    He doesn’t want to leave Wollongong but may have to if he wants to keep wearing the No.1 jumper.

    Much of the knock has been on his ball-playing skills, which modern-day fullbacks are almost required to have.

    Dugan explained to On The Couch With Sterlo the work he’s doing to improve and stay at the club.

    “My priority is to stay at Saints but obviously trying to work out where (what position) I’m going to be playing,” Dugan said.


    [​IMG]
    'I see myself as a fullback'

    0:47
    “It’s a big decision for me to make career wise, moving to the centres when I’ve played my whole career at fullback.

    “I still see myself as a decent fullback. I’ve worked pretty hard all pre-season at getting that ball-playing back into my game.

    “I’ve worked with Benny Hornby every session doing extra passing and things like that. I think my decision making has become a lot better this year and that showed in the first few rounds.”

    http://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nrl...k/news-story/53164b55d4caf1cef307b62fa68c31e3
     
  9. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    TIGERS SEARCH FOR FRESH TROOPS

    Gareth Widdop and Russell Packer aren’t the only Dragons Ivan Cleary’s Wests Tigers have their eye on.

    While Packer will become a target to replace Aaron Woods if he accepts a lucrative deal elsewhere, the Tigers are also eyeing centre Taane Milne.

    With Jamal Idris, Kevin Naiqama, David Nofoaluma, Justin Hunt and Jordan Rankin off-contract, the Tigers are in need of backline depth.

    [​IMG]
    Taane Milne of the Dragons is tackled.Source: Getty Images
    The club has tabled a three-year offer to winger David Nofoaluma and expect to learn of his decision by next week.

    They’ve also expressed interest in Cronulla utility Kurt Capewell.

    Capewell, 23, made his NRL debut last year and can play centre or backrow but is struggling to secure a spot in first grade. A move to Concord could pave the way for consistent NRL.

    Milne is in a similar position.

    The 21-year-old has made nine appearances in the top grade but his two stints this year have come via the bench.

    http://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nrl...e/news-story/88e298c38aaf04ccfbce0d9d946c3444
     
  10. Dragsters

    Dragsters Juniors

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    I heard the tigers were keen on Milne rumour about 2 months back but did not post it as I did not want to fuel the speculation.

    I would like to keep him in the Red V.

    It's no secret I'm a big fan of his.
     
  11. possm

    possm First Grade

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    I'm also a big fan of Milne. Last season I thought he was our best centre by far. However, this year he is out of sorts most probably because he did not put in during the off season and because of this, has found himself down the pecking order.

    Millward has Dugan playing at right centre in 2018. Maybe he will stay at fullback until Field is ready but will surely move to centre within the next two years. So, with juniors coming through and Lafai and Aitken playing well, Milne and Mann have become a low priority.
     
  12. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Continuity the key for Dragons' McCrone
    Wed 12th April, 10:00AM
    A A



    Chris Kennedy - NRL.com National Correspondent

    St George Illawarra Dragons halfback Josh McCrone is enjoying a rare run of stability in the Telstra Premiership and believes he is now reaping the rewards of an opportunity to build some regular combinations at NRL level.

    Saturday's 35-10 trampling of Manly at Lottoland was arguably St George Illawarra's best performance of their five wins so far in season 2017.

    But there is no doubt it was the best personal effort yet for the maligned 29-year-old McCrone, who conjured four try assists in a fine 80-minute outing.

    A pre-season injury to Drew Hutchison opened the door for the Temora Dragons junior to build on his 140 NRL games over eight years in a regular partnership with Gareth Widdop, while building a right-edge combination with the likes of Tyson Frizell and Euan Aitken in both attack and defence.

    Six matches in, the results are showing.

    "I think that was something this club underestimated a bit last year, to give time to build combinations," McCrone said.

    "It's something that's come along, I've had five or six weeks with 'Friz' and Euan, it takes time to build, you don't just jump in and play automatically.

    "They're starting to find out how I play and I'm starting to find out how they play and the combinations are starting to happen so I think that's massive to build those combinations."

    Despite losing Frizell early on to a rib complaint on Saturday and having Kurt Mann replace Euan Aitken (hamstring) at centre the week before, having plenty of players who know the system has made the changes seamless, he added.

    "It's been good, especially the last couple of weeks we had [Mann] start there in the centres last week and Euan back there this week, we lost Friz – blokes are just fitting into the system," he said.

    "That's something we worked on in the pre-season that everyone's able to fill everyone else's job. It's been really pleasing how it's worked," he said.

    After being shuffled in and out of first grade – mostly as a back-up option – by both Canberra and the Dragons through 2015 and 2016, McCrone was understandably reluctant to get carried away with his own form after playing in the shadow of a red-hot Widdop for much of the year so far.

    "Footy's a bit of a funny game, sometimes the ball comes your way, sometimes it doesn't," McCrone said.

    "As long as the team's scoring points I'm happy. 'Gaz' has had the run of the footy the last couple of weeks and today the footy came my way and we were able to finish a couple of points.

    "We talk about the forward pack, it's a powerful pack and it rolls through the middle of teams, any half can play off the back of that. If you're an NRL half you should enjoy playing off the back of that.

    "It's nice to get a bit of consistency and that's what we've got at the moment in the halves there."

    http://www.dragons.com.au/news/2017/04/12/continuity_the_key_f.html
     
  13. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    NRL Breach Determination
    Thu 13th April, 02:40PM
    A A

    [​IMG]

    The St George Illawarra Dragons have today determined that they would not seek leave to appeal, under the NRL’s Appeal Process, against the NRL’s determination in respect to the HIA rule.

    Despite independent legal advice supporting the Club's disappointment with respect to the process, in particular "procedural fairness" – the Club accepts there may have been a technical breach of the HIA rule.

    However, it believes that there were many mitigating factors including conflicting information emanating from the NRL with respect to the interpretation of the rules and the NRL’s technology at the game.

    The Dragons have always had player well-being as the highest priority, and wish to again clearly confirm our support for the integrity and professionalism of our staff that look after the well-being of our players each and every day.

    Josh Dugan was assessed at the time of the incident, at half-time, full-time and in the week following. At no stage did he present any symptoms relating to concussion as a result of the contact made by Russell Packer.

    The Dragons will look to ensure that this incident, along with the circumstances at Newcastle and the Gold Coast, lead the NRL to review the interpretations of the HIA rules so as to provide clear guidance for improvement in outcomes for players and Clubs which will then be administered consistently, in all respects.

    http://www.dragons.com.au/news/2017/04/13/nrl_breach_determina.html
     
  14. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Host hungry for top grade return
    Fri 14th April, 09:00AM
    A A



    St George Illawarra Dragons back-rower Jacob Host is hungry for a return to the NRL Telstra Premiership after playing for Illawarra last weekend.

    While initially disappointed, the Renown United junior has turned it into a positive and is happy to see close friend Hame Sele make his NRL debut.

    http://www.dragons.com.au/news/2017/04/14/host_hungry_for_top_.html
     
  15. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Dragons keeping happy: Aitken
    Fri 14th April, 11:00AM
    A A



    St George Illawarra centre Euan Aitken is happy to keep proving the doubters wrong ahead of the Dragons' Round 7 clash against the North Queensland Cowboys at WIN Stadium, Wollongong on Easter Saturday.

    Aitken also discusses his recent hamstring woes and how he bounced back from it with two tries in his 50th NRL game as well as the Dragons sitting pretty atop the NRL Telstra Premiership.

    http://www.dragons.com.au/news/2017/04/14/aitken.html
     
  16. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Mark Coyne urges St George Illawarra Dragons to re-sign Paul McGregor
    [​IMG]

    St George Illawarra great Mark Coyne believes coach Paul McGregor "can't do any more" to justify a new contract after the club's outstanding start to the year.

    McGregor came into the season as a man under fire after the Dragons finished the 2016 season in 11th place. Most pundits predicted a bottom-four finish after a poor Charity Shield showing but the Red V then went on to win five of their opening six matches to sit on top of the NRL ladder (before Saturday night's clash with the Cowboys).


    [​IMG]
    Happy Dragons: The Dragons celebrate Euan Aitken's try during their big win over Manly. Photo: Getty Images
    Coyne, a former Dragons skipper, returned to the club in an official capacity as a member of the football performance committee that was formed in the off-season. While he has no official input on coaching retention matters, the former Maroons centre believes "Mary" has proven himself worthy of a contract extension.

    "Definitely – he can't do any more than what he's delivered," Coyne said.


    [​IMG]
    New deal?: Paul McGregor is in line for a new contract after the Dragons' great start to the season. Photo: John Veage
    "The team is obviously going outstanding this year and there's not much more he can do in terms of performing on the field. It's a call for the club on what is the right timing around re-signing; there are lots of things you need to factor in like where the players are sitting at, all those sorts of things.

    "It will be a decision the club need to make. I don't get involved in that side of things, I don't get engaged in making any recommendations about Mary. But you'd have to say there's not much more he can do than what he's done at the moment."

    One of the football performance committee's key recommendations was freeing McGregor of retention and recruitment responsibilities, allowing him to concentrate on coaching. The decision appears to have paid immediate dividends with a string of impressive victories, including against premiership heavyweights Penrith and Cronulla.

    "The big one is freeing Mary up to do what he needs to do with the team on the field," Coyne said.

    "Mary was a great attacking player, one of the best that's played the game and that's starting to come out. They're playing really good footy, like the Broncos and the Cowboys a few years ago, when they were just playing what's in front of them. That sort of attack is the way to go when everyone else is so structured.

    "They can't do much more. The forward pack is outstanding; the way they cover for themselves defensively and fill the holes is really good. They're getting some good attacking football, the offloads are coming and they are getting the ball out wide to where the gaps are. It's really exciting to watch them at the moment."

    The Dragons' director of league pathways, Ian Millward, has been charged with roster management. Having lured Ben Hunt from Brisbane, the priority now is to retain captain Gareth Widdop and fullback Josh Dugan.

    Coyne believes the club is finally getting its salary cap in order after a series of post-premiership, back-ended deals.

    "There's a bit of a hangover from the grand final [in 2010] where there were a few contracts back-ended to get Gaz [Mark Gasnier] back," he said.

    "There's been some time to get over that hangover and they're now getting better control of the cap. It's about spending the money where you need to spend it and they're at the point where they are more proactive in managing the cap. There was a hangover from the post-Wayne [Bennett] days. He won them a grand final, which is great, but he made things a bit tough after that.

    "They're planning through that now and being more circumspect on how to manage the cap differently."

    There has been some conjecture over whether Dugan's best position is in the centres or at fullback. The NSW stalwart can command more money in the No.1 jersey, although youngster Jai Field is considered a potential long-term custodian. Coyne hopes he will stay put.

    "He's great with the ball in his hands and at fullback you get a lot more carries," he said.

    "Until he was injured he was one of the form players in the team. It doesn't matter where he plays as long as you get the ball in his hands a lot."

    http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/...-to-resign-paul-mcgregor-20170414-gvl7sw.html
     
  17. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Preseason ‘makeover’ paying off big for Lafai

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    16 Apr 2017, 5 p.m.
    [​IMG]

    BACK IN FORM: Dragons centre Tim Lafai scored a double in his side's 28-22 voctpry over North Queensland on Saturday night. Picture: Georgia Matts

    CALL it a new lease on Laf – at least that’s what numbers showing Dragons centre Tim Lafai is on track for a career-best season would suggest.

    After a forgettable 2016 campaign, marred by injury and off-field drama, the 25-year-old has started the season in barnstorming form, scoring a double in Saturday’s 28-22 win over the Cowboys.

    With four tries in seven games, he’s already gone past the tally he managed in 18 appearances last season. He’s also bettered the three line-break assists and equaled his three try-assists while averaging a career-high 13 carries per game for 112 metres.

    It's a start that compares favourably to his best ever season with the Bulldogs in 2014 where he finished with 14 tries, eight try-assists and 18 line-breaks in his 20 games.

    It comes after his first full preseason in almost two years after he was squeezed out of Canterbury to accommodate Will Hopoate in late 2015, with coach Paul McGregor saying Lafai produced the most dramatic off-season transformation of any player at the club.

    “Tim probably had the biggest makeover of any player in the preseason, he really changed the way he attacked it this year,” McGregor said.

    “We got him relatively late last season, he spent some time in the preseason at [Canterbury] and had a hamstring [injury] and then a quad so he never really got moving. This year he did everything and he actually won our award at our [preseason] camp.

    “I’m just happy for Tim the person because he genuinely cares about his footy team and he genuinely cares about his form. For him to go out there and play like that is certainly nice to see.”

    Lafai admits a disrupted season on and off the paddock did put a dent in his confidence, and left him with a point to prove when he returned to Dragons training in November.

    “Season’s like [2016], that definitely takes a toll on a player’s confidence but there were some lessons learned and I’m glad that year’s over,” Lafai said.

    “After last year I was keen to get into preseason and really prove to the boys and the coaching staff that I was serious about this year and I wanted that spot.

    “My body’s probably feeling that best it’s been and just doing a tough preseason and getting through that is really helping me out there on the field.

    “The boys are really clicking, the middles are doing their part and the edges are finishing it off. Gaz [Gareth Widdop] is in some good form and we’re really starting to click on that left edge so the boys have just got to keep it up.”

    Lafai’s future at the Dragons will likely hinge on whether or not Josh Dugan remains at the club and embraces a proposed shift to the centres, but the Samoan International's return to form is certainly timely given he remains un-signed beyond 2017.

    “It would be nice [to stay] but at the end of the day, it’s a business so I've got to do what’s best for me and my family and the Dragons have got to do what’s best for the club,” Lafai said.

    “I’m happy where I am at the moment. I’m just focused on doing my job for the Dragons and for myself and whatever happens happens.”

    http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/4599690/preseason-makeover-paying-off-for-lafai/?cs=3713
     
  18. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Cap uncertainty complicates negotiations with Dragons pair

    Mitch Jennings@@Mitch_Jenno

    17 Apr 2017, 3:30 p.m.
    [​IMG]

    IN DEMAND: Gareth Widdop. Picture: Adam McLean

    ST GEORGE Illawarra recruitment chief Ian Millward has conceded a lower than expected salary cap figure for 2018 has complicated the club’s efforts to re-sign off-contract stars Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan, but he remains confident both can be retained.

    The NRL is currently at odds with the Rugby League Players Association over a salary cap figure for next season with most clubs having budgeted for well above the initial $8.7 million figure offered up in negotiations last month. The standoff appears no closer to a resolution and has helped spark what Millward describes as a market “frenzy,” as panicked clubs scramble to secure talent.

    Widdop has started the the season in sensational form for the Dragons which has attracted interest from Wests Tigers, who see him as a potential replacement for Parrammatta-bound Mitch Moses, and his former club Melbourne following Cooper Cronk’s shock announcement that 2017 will be his last season with the Storm.

    Dugan is also a priority signing, though he will have to embrace a shift to the centres and accept an offer below his reported million-dollar per season asking price to remain at the club. He’s also attracted interest from the Roosters as a fall-back should they fail to lure James Tedesco away from the Tigers.

    The Dragons have already secured the services of Broncos half Ben Hunt for the next six years on a multi-million dollar deal and Millward admitted the low-ball cap figure from the NRL has impacted negotiations with the off-contract pair, who share the same manager in Paul Sutton.

    “The news we heard a couple of weeks ago that the [cap figure] may be $8.7 million has thrown a lot of clubs out because obviously we were working on a higher figure,” Millward said.

    “A lot of clubs thought it was going to be $10 million. We were a lot more conservative than that because we weren’t sure but obviously, when the figures change, it has an effect on negotiations.

    “The market at the moment has become a bit of a frenzy. You look at the Melbourne scenario with [Cooper] Cronk, you look at Bird at Cronulla, you look a at Wests Tigers with the players they have off contract, you look at what Canterbury are trying to do with certain players.

    “There’s been so much activity with players leaving clubs and clubs getting quite anxious and the market price has gone up. I can use Gareth [as an example]. We were in negotiations with Gareth and all of a sudden there’s been a couple of clubs where things have happened and they’re very anxious.

    “Gareth’s definitely a priority for us as is Josh Dugan. We’re still very active in discussions and we would like to keep advancing them and hopefully get a satisfactory result. In this climate at the moment, it’s changing daily, and we’re working with it.

    “That’s why their will be some delays at the moment so we can try and get the perfect outcome.”

    The Dragons got ahead of the chaos by locking down Hunt prior to the start of the season, though Millward disputed the reported $6 million figure many feel has sparked the current NRL halves market frenzy, and given the club less wriggle-room to retain Widdop.

    “We made a decision early that we wanted to get a halfback and thankfully we got that done in January with Ben Hunt,” Millward said.

    “We were really pleased with the figure we got. One thing we are really disappointed with is the continued innuendo about what he is getting. I don’t want to talk figures there but it’s nowhere near some of the figures that have been said.

    "That can cause problems internally at times because players see those reports, and I notice a lot of them come out of the Broncos.

    “We’re very comfortable that we did get in early, we got the figure we were very comfortable with.

    http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/4602052/dragons-face-juggling-act-to-retain-stars/?cs=3713
     
  19. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    No end to Lafai's form rise
    Wed 19th April, 10:00AM
    A A



    St George Illawarra centre Tim Lafai is pleased with his continued rise in form ahead of the traditional Anzac Day clash against the Sydney Roosters.

    Lafai will celebrate his 100th NRL game on Anzac Day and is looking forward to achieving the milestone on one of the biggest days on the rugby league calender.

    http://www.dragons.com.au/news/2017/04/19/no_end_to_lafai_s_fo.html
     
  20. getsmarty

    getsmarty First Grade

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    Vaughan not mulling on higher honours
    Wed 19th April, 12:00PM
    A A



    St George Illawarra prop Paul Vaughan isn't concentrating on earning further honours in 2017, stressing that the Dragons come first.

    Vaughan spoke in the lead-up to the Round 8 Anzac Day clash against the Sydney Roosters and was excited for his first taste of the traditional clash.

    http://www.dragons.com.au/news/2017/04/19/vaughan_not_mulling_.html
     

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