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

  1. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    No excuses for the Dragons in 2018
    [​IMG] Roar Guru
    By mastermind5991, 1 Mar 2018 mastermind5991 is a Roar Guru


    The greatest corner finish of all time!
    If there is one team which is intent on making a statement this season after narrowly missing the finals last year, it is the St George Illawarra Dragons.

    After taking a step or two backwards in 2016, not much was expected from the Red V in 2017.

    However, a 42-10 thrashing of pre-season premiership favourites the Penrith Panthers in Round 1 would catch the competition by surprise, with the Dragons going on to win five matches in a row between Rounds 3 and 7 to sit on top of the ladder.

    This included wins over reigning premiers the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in Round 3, as well as eventual grand finalists the North Queensland Cowboys, whom they defeated by 28-24 after leading 28-4 at halftime.

    However, their season took a turn for the worse when their captain Gareth Widdop suffered a knee injury in the first half of their Anzac Day clash against the Sydney Roosters, which they lost 13-12 in golden point extra time.

    His absence would see the Dragons drop their next three matches, and apart from beating the Warriors and Wests Tigers on either side of their Round 12 bye, they would not win consecutive matches for the remainder of the season.

    Still, it was their impressive first half of the season which won coach Paul McGregor a contract extension, tying him to the club until the end of 2019, by the end of which he will be the club’s second-longest serving coach, only behind Nathan Brown who mentored the side between 2003 and 2008.

    This, however, would mark a millstone as the Dragons would win only twice more to drop out of the top eight for the first time in the season in Round 22.

    Two wins in their next three matches would then place them in the precarious situation whereby they would have to beat one of their bogey sides, the Bulldogs, in the final round to clinch a finals berth.

    They led by 20-14 with fifteen minutes to go but conceded the last two tries to go down by 26-20, finishing the season in ninth place and marking a sour ending to a year which had started so brightly.

    As if that wasn’t enough, they then had to watch on as the team that finished eighth, the Cowboys, made it all the way to the grand final, only to be beaten by the Melbourne Storm 34-6.

    [​IMG]
    (AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

    Still, to many fans it was a good result given the low expectations on them at the start of the season borne out of their dismal 2016 season in which only the Newcastle Knights scored less points than the Red V.

    Apart from the early season form of Gareth Widdop, other highlights for the club included the individual form of forwards Jack de Belin, Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell.

    Frizell played all three games for New South Wales in 2017, while de Belin and Vaughan were both very close to selection for the Blues, who this year will be coached by former captain Brad Fittler.

    Days after the soul-crushing loss to the Bulldogs, it was announced that James Graham had signed a three-year deal with the Dragons, ensuring that his rugby league career would end by wearing the most famous letter in the NRL.

    It came months after Brisbane Broncos half-back Ben Hunt signed a six-year, $6 million contract, also starting in 2018.

    The club’s acquisition of both Hunt and Graham are arguably the biggest signings, whether it’d be player or coach, since Wayne Bennett coached the club between 2009 and 2011.

    It was during Bennett’s tenure as Dragons coach in which the club won the 2010 premiership, defeating the Sydney Roosters by 32-8 in the grand final.

    From the side that saluted on that rainy evening on October 3, 2010, only Jason Nightingale remains at the club today, and it is inevitable that this season will be his last. He only needs to play five games to reach the 250-game milestone.

    [​IMG]
    (Photo: AAP)

    Thus, on the back of their biggest off-season since the 2010 premiership, which to many fans seems like an eternity ago given the club’s recent downturn in fortunes, expectations will be very high.

    Already their 2018 season has got off to a mixed start, winning an exhibition match against Hull and dropping their annual Charity Shield match against the Rabbitohs for the sixth consecutive year.

    The club cannot overly rely on both Hunt and Graham alone to lift them back into the promised land, with others such as Matt Dufty, Jack de Belin, Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell all having to contribute to some degree as well.

    Of particular interest will be how the new halves pairing of Gareth Widdop and Ben Hunt will operate. This is set to be their most stable halves pairing since Jamie Soward and Ben Hornby led the club to the 2010 title.

    Already, next week’s season opener against the Broncos is already looming large for the club, none more so for Ben Hunt, who is to be unleashed against the club he represented 189 times between 2009 and 2017.

    Highlighting their commercial appeal, seven of their first eight games will be televised on Channel Nine, including the aforementioned Round 1 match against the Broncos, as well as both of their derbies against the Sharks.

    Apart from their two biggest signings, it will also remain to be seen whether they have learnt the lessons from their capitulation in the second half of last season, which cost them a finals berth and undoubtedly frustrated their large legion of fans.

    And so, the time for excuses are over and it’s now up to the Dragons to deliver on what is expected of them in 2018.


    http://www.theroar.com.au/2018/03/01/no-excuses-dragons-2018/
     
  2. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    Hunt ready to silence old Broncos teammates in season opener
    Author
    Brad Walter Senior Reporter
    Timestamp
    Fri 2 Mar 2018, 10:55 AM

    Ben Hunt was with his former Brisbane Broncos teammates at the recent wedding of hooker Andrew McCullough when the talk inevitably turned to next Thursday night’s Telstra Premiership opener at Jubilee Oval.

    ''They were saying 'righto, round one. We will be coming for you and stuff like that','' the St George Illawarra Dragons star recruit told NRL.com. ''All the boys were getting into me a bit, all in good fun.

    ''It's something I never thought I would want to do but I am actually looking forward to it. There is going to be a bit of banter and bit of fun in the game between the boys so it is going to be a real challenge.''

    The offer of a five-year contract from the Dragons and the opportunity to play behind a pack Hunt considers one of the best in the NRL was too good to turn down but leaving the Broncos was still a difficult decision.

    Since being recruited by legendary former Broncos scout Cyril Connell as a 12-year-old halfback, the Blackwater Crushers junior had never considered he would play anywhere else.

    A Cronulla Sharks supporter who idolised Andrew Johns while growing up in Dingo, about 150km west of Rockhampton, Hunt attended his first training camp with the Broncos at 13 and accepted a scholarship when he was 15.

    [​IMG]
    St George Illawarra halfback Ben Hunt. :copyright:Grant Trouville/NRL Photos
    After finishing high school in Yeppoon, he moved to Brisbane and was a member of the Broncos' inaugural under 20s team in 2008, which included McCullough, Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett and Alex Glenn.

    ''I had been with them for 10 years so letting those boys know that I wouldn't be playing alongside them anymore was the hardest thing,'' Hunt said of his decision to sign with the Dragons.

    ''It was an extremely hard decision. I had been involved with the Broncos since I was 12 years old and they had been very good to me. I have some great mates from that under 20s team who are still there.

    ''I told just a few of teammates first. Andrew McCullough was definitely there and certainly the one I had been involved with for a long time. They all really understood and congratulated me.''

    Hunt also had to inform Broncos coach Wayne Bennett and his former captain Darren Lockyer, who had mentored him when he first broke into the NRL ranks and is still involved with the club.

    Nightingale set to join 250 club

    ''Going to tell Wayne was pretty tough in itself,'' he said. ''He said he understood my decision and wished me all the best for this season but hoped I wanted to finish my last season there really strong.''

    Lockyer tried to convince Hunt to remain with the Broncos.

    ''We had a few chats here and there,'' Hunt said. ''He just talked about how good it was for him to be a one-club man and what it meant to be a Bronco, that they really wanted me in the team.''

    So too did the Dragons, and they had identified Hunt as the star halfback the club had been missing since the formation of the joint venture between St George and Illawarra in 1999.

    Other halfbacks were on the market but the Dragons targeted Hunt as the one they wanted and convinced him to sign before the start of the 2017 season.

    ''Five-year deals don’t come around very often and I think just having that security was massive,'' said Hunt, who took time off from last year’s World Cup with Australia to get married and has a young son, Brady.

    ''There were a couple of other clubs who were interested but the Dragons just had a lot to offer. Wollongong is a nice place to play footy and I personally believed they had a great roster – then they added James Graham.

    ''As a halfback that was something I was pretty happy about. I felt like I made the right decision.''

    With such a big contract comes expectation but Hunt is used to that as anyone who wears the No.7 jersey for the Broncos has to live with comparisons to Allan Langer.

    Hunt admits that he struggled with that during his early career but believes he is prepared to cope with the pressure he will come under at the Dragons.

    ''Alfie always delivered, he set the standard, he was such a great player for the Broncos for such a long time – and for Queensland and Australia,'' Hunt said.

    ''Because of him there was always high expectations on whoever played halfback and a lot of pressure from the fans.

    ''The Dragons have brought me down here for a reason and that is to win footy games.

    ''My intention in coming here is to be that halfback they have been looking for and cement my spot for as long as they want me.''


    https://www.nrl.com/news/2018/03/02/ben-hunt-ready-to-silence-old-brisbane-broncos-teammates-taunts/
     
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  3. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    Ben Hunt confident as St George Illawarra Dragons NRL debut approaches
    Local Sport
    [​IMG]
    Set to fire: Ben Hunt. Picture: John Veage.

    St George Illawarra Dragons recruit Ben Hunt is confident the team will fire from the first whistle as their season opener approaches.

    A lengthy off-season of discussion surrounding the Dragons key signings and the pressure they will face finally comes to an end on Thursday night when St George Illawarra face Brisbane at Jubilee Oval.

    The halfback is looking forward to putting on the Red V and letting his play on the field do the talking.

    “It’s been a long time coming now, waiting for that game,” Hunt said. “Just waiting for that first whistle, I know there’s going to be some nerves and excitement before it, but once that first whistle goes it’s all on and ready to go.”

    The Dragons enter the game having had mixed trial success, with a sluggish 24-18 win over Hull FC followed by a four-point loss to the Rabbitohs in last week’s Charity Shield.

    “We’ve played two trials and I don’t think we’ve been anywhere close to where we can get to so far. I think there’s a lot of improvement we’re going to make during the year and I’m pretty keen we can push to the finals.

    “I think it should happen pretty quickly though. I can’t be going out taking my time getting into the game against the Broncos. It’s a game we want to win and we’ll be going right from the opening whistle, and I need to be part of that.”

    The team’s progress from the first trial to the second was clear, with the Dragons delivering a much improved effort in Mudgee, despite the final scoreline.

    “I thought we were a bit off the pace in the first trial and I know we lost the second trial, but I think we improved a hell of a lot to where we were in the first game.

    “Defensively, we need to clean up a few things if we want to be a good team.”

    The loss to the Rabbitohs came after dummy half Damien Cook ran rampant through the middle of the field and Hunt is confident the issue will be addressed come kick off on Thursday night.

    “We’re working on them, we had a bit of work on them this morning [Friday] and we’re going to do a bit more work during the week.

    “There’s always going to be issues throughout the year, you get stuck into them at training trying to fix them up.”

    While Hunt has been lauded as the missing piece in the Dragons premiership puzzle, the team’s fortunes last season often hinged on the performance of the forwards. It will be vital for the forwards to dominate upfront to provide Hunt and Gareth Widdop with a solid foundation to build off in 2018.

    “We have spoken about that,” Forward Leeson Ah Mau said. “If we’re not doing our job in the middle, it’s going to be hard for the halves to play.

    “We’ve really made a focus on laying that platform for Gaz [Gareth Widdop] and Benny to do their stuff.”

    The arrival of former Bulldogs captain James Graham should fortify the St George Illawarra forward pack and Hunt feels the England international’s impact on the team has been clear both on and off the field.

    “The biggest thing James brings is just his leadership,” Hunt said. “I think everyone says that about him, the way he goes about his work, he does all the little things.

    “He’s not a huge talker, he just leads by example. He’s that type of player that you really want in your team and want to play for.”


    http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/5260860/hunt-confident-as-dragons-debut-nears/?cs=302
     
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  4. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    [​IMG]
    NRL NEWS

    Graham giving Dragons pack extra beef and belief
    Author
    Tanisha Stanton
    Timestamp
    Fri 2 Mar 2018, 07:29 PM

    James Graham has only been at the St George Illawarra Dragons for a couple of months but he is already inspiring his teammates in their mission to get their forward pack the recognition they deserve.

    Graham, who has joined the club after a six year stint at the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, only begun pre-season training with the Dragons after the Christmas break following his starring role for England at the World Cup.

    Fellow recruit Ben Hunt and Dragons forward Leeson Ah Mau have been amazed by Graham's work ethic on the training field and said the veteran prop had already made a significant impact on the club’s engine room.

    The arrival of Graham, Jeremy Latimore and Mitchell Allgood, has given the Red V arguably the best depth in the forward stocks in the NRL.

    “He’s the type of player you really want in your team and you want to play for,” Hunt said.

    “The biggest thing James [Graham] brings is his leadership, I think everyone says that about him.

    “The way he goes about his work and he does all the little things. He’s not a huge talker but he leads by example.”

    Last season the Dragons forwards displayed an impressive performance averaging the most metres pre-game with 1706m, leading the competition for offloads with 353 and the greatest metres made from effective offloads with 110.6m per game.

    Ensuring that the forwards bring and maintain that metre-hungry aggression this season, Hunt should have no trouble in adding support from his end and complimenting the Dragons natural offloading game.

    “I watched a bit of the footy here last year and I think they had a great forward pack. They really backed that up I think in the trials, I was pretty happy with how they went,” he said.

    “It’s [offloading] not something we plan to do it’s just the type of team we have.

    “We got some really good off-loaders and they can create a different style of footy for us so if I can be aware of when that is coming and push up and try play off that.”

    Ah Mau is similarly in awe of Graham's ability.

    “We know what we are going to get out of him and everyone has already enjoyed taking the field with him,” he said.

    “If we are not doing our job in the middle it’s going to be hard for our halves to play so we’ve really made a focus on laying that platform for Gaz [Gareth Widdop] and Benny [Ben Hunt] to do their stuff.”

    For the Dragons going up against the Brisbane Broncos at Jubilee Oval in the first game to kick off the season, Ah Mau says it will be their defence that will determine the end result.

    “We all know what type of players they are so as a middle we gotta keep working hard for each other and make sure that we are covering each other’s inside in defence.”

    https://www.nrl.com/news/2018/03/02...t-george-illawarra-dragons-pack-extra-belief/
     
  5. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    Hunt vows to take control straight away
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    It's a combination that is supposed to take months to click, but Ben Hunt has vowed he and Gareth Widdop will hit the ground running ahead of his long-anticipated Dragons debut against former club Brisbane.

    Far from cautioning against a slow start in a blockbuster NRL season-opener, St George Illawarra's multi-million-dollar halfback has pledged there will be no first-night teething problems for one of the most celebrated halves duos in the competition on Thursday night.

    "I think [the combination] should happen pretty quick," Hunt said. "I can't be going out taking my time to get into the game against the Broncos. It's a game we want to win. We'll be going right from the opening whistle and I want to be part of that.

    "[Widdop's] everything I've expected. He's a world-class talent and you see him what he does during the game and then you come down to train with him and he's just doing freakish stuff all the time. He's such a great player and I'm really looking forward to playing with him."

    Hunt's Red V debut has been more than a year in the making after signing a rich five-year deal to join the Dragons, but he's had less than two months to strike up a partnership with Widdop given the pair's World Cup commitments.

    It has led some to caution it will take a while for the Dragons' playmakers to find their mojo, a theory Hunt distanced himself from on Friday as his Brisbane reunion readies to take centre stage at University of Wollongong Jubilee Oval.

    While Hunt was reluctant to admit it, much of St George Illawarra's finals fortunes will rest on their star recruit having made scant September appearances in recent years. And Widdop knows their recent record of reaching the finals has been underwhelming.

    "You play this game to play in finals and make the big games," Widdop said. "We've played finals once in the last four years. We've put ourselves in position to play finals and it's been really disappointing.

    https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/sp...ke-control-straight-away-20180302-p4z2kb.html
     
  6. Old Timer

    Old Timer First Grade

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    FMD talking up Latimore & Allgood where do people get that shit from?
    If they get a gig in 1st grade we are no chance of being better than 12th.
     
  7. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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  8. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    [​IMG]

    NSW WOMEN'S RUGBY LEAGUE

    Apps, Bremner named in NSW Origin pathway squad
    Author
    NSWRL
    Timestamp
    Fri 2 Mar 2018, 12:20 PM

    The Harvey Norman NSW Women's team will start planning this weekend for the defence of the "Interstate Challenge" title to be played under the Origin banner for the first time as a stand-alone event in June.

    In what would have been the 20th anniversey of the Interstate Challenge between Queensland and NSW for the Nellie Doherty Cup, the match will now be played as part of the Origin program.

    Members of the 2017 NSW Harvey Norman Women’s Interstate Challenge side, which claimed back-to-back titles, will come together on Sunday (4 March) at the NSWRL Women’s Origin Pathways camp.

    The 17-woman squad will undergo fitness testing at Belmore Sportsground, before an on-field training session and educational workshops, led by NSW Women’s coach Ben Cross and NSWRL high performance staff.

    “The NSWRL Women’s Origin Pathways camp provides players and staff an opportunity to align their thoughts and training programs ahead of June’s stand-alone Origin fixture,” NSWRL Coach Development Manager Alan Thompson said.

    The historic Women’s State of Origin fixture, formerly known as the Harvey Norman Women’s Interstate Challenge, will be played on Friday, 22 June, the same weekend as the men's Holden State of Origin clash at ANZ Stadium (Sunday, 24 June).

    The NSWRL Women’s Origin Pathways Squad is as follows:
    • Jasmin Allende
    • Kezie Apps
    • Sam Bremner
    • Jayme Fressard
    • Kylie Hilder
    • Rikeya Horne
    • Tahlia Hunter
    • Nita Maynard
    • Corban McGregor
    • Lavina O'Mealey
    • Rebecca Riley
    • Jessica Sergis
    • Taleena Simon
    • Ruan Sims
    • Shontelle Stowers
    • Elianna Walton
    • Rebecca Young
    https://www.dragons.com.au/news/2018/03/03/apps-bremner-named-in-nsw-origin-pathway-squad/
     
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  9. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    Dragons young gun Luciano Leilua losing 10 kilos for 2018 NRL season kick-off
    Dragons
    • March 3, 2018 2:59pm
    • Source: AAP
    [​IMG]
    Luciano Leilua offloads has lost weight since this Dragons appearance.Source: News Corp Australia
    LUCIANO Leilua has revealed he hopes to return to St George Illawarra’s NRL side next week more than 10 kilograms lighter than when he was last sighted in first grade.
    Leilua is set to be the biggest beneficiary of Joel Thompson’s off-season move to Manly, set to earn a recall into Paul McGregor’s side for the NRL season-opener against Brisbane.

    The 21-year-old second-rower hasn’t been sighted in the NRL since his 2016 rookie year, when he was tipping the scales at about 124kg.



    [​IMG]
    Ben excited to face Broncos


    But after starting this summer’s pre-season at 120kg, Leilua is now down to his professional best of 113 after an off-season spent ditching the carbohydrates and eating sizeably smaller meal portions.

    “I feel heaps better,” Leilua told AAP.

    “I’ve always been heavy going through high school growing up. Knowing now that I’m more mature, lose weight and stay on my diet.

    “It’s improved my training heaps. My running times have been better.

    “Everyone is going to feel good if they lose weight. But this is probably the best pre-season I’ve had of my three.”

    Leilua, who is the brother of Canberra centre Joseph, was named Illawarra’s best player in reserve grade last year and was rewarded with a two-year contract extension in December.



    [​IMG]
    Luciano Leilua (centre) running at pre-season training.Source: News Corp Australia
    A promising St George junior, Leilua started in both of the Dragons’ pre-season trials and has been vying for the left-edge second-row spot along with Tariq Sims and bench prospect Jacob Host.

    Leilua’s pre-season has impressed many at the Dragons — including coach McGregor — and the youngster said much of that was down to his own development in NSW Cup last season.

    “It was tough playing against men — just physical,” he said.

    “It’s got a little bit quicker. But most of all it’s getting used to week in, week out playing against men. It just toughens you up.

    “Growing up I was a big boy, but stepping into NSW Cup everyone is big. It’s hard to shove them off or palm them off because everyone is strong and fit.”



    https://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nr...f/news-story/5d7b19394e28c7ad8040140929cc0141
     
  10. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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  11. ALSGI

    ALSGI Juniors

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  12. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    Your Welcome...Glad you enjoyed it.
     
  13. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    Hunt to open vault to Brisbane's secrets for Dragons
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    His club lumps one of the most wretched head-to-head records in recent NRL history, but Dragons coach Paul McGregor is not hiding the fact he has tapped into Ben Hunt's Brisbane bank of secrets to snap a frustrating curse.

    While Hunt will be the man firmly in the spotlight ahead of the season opener against his old club on Thursday night, McGregor has quickly sought advice from his multimillion-dollar halfback about how to snap St George Illawarra's run of outs against the Broncos.


    The Red V have beaten Brisbane just once in their last 13 clashes - stretching back to 2010 during Wayne Bennett's reign in Wollongong - but don't have to look far for fresh intelligence on halting that dominance.

    Asked about consulting Hunt on some of Brisbane's inner workings, McGregor said: "We've openly chatted, for sure. We spoke a few weeks ago and I spoke to him again about it twice this week. Why not?

    "He's played at the club for 180 games and most of them have been under Wayne. He's played with all those guys and he's a halfback so he certainly knows what they're about.

    "But at the same time most coaches know the habits of the opposition as well to try to nullify the opposition."

    McGregor is the only Dragons coach to have toppled the Broncos in almost eight years, but still boasts an unflattering 1-5 record in teams he has coached against Brisbane.

    [​IMG]
    Dragons
    Hunt vows to take control straight away
    While Roosters recruit Cooper Cronk last week conceded he would be reluctant to open up on the Storm's trade secrets, Hunt can give a little advice on how best to tame his old club.

    The clash against his former employers has been more than a year in the making as the Dragons pitch renewed hope on the back of his signing to complement James Graham's arrival, but McGregor has been quick to warn the rest of his squad not to take the foot off the gas.

    Following late season fade-outs in two of their last three campaigns where they've plummeted from the top four mid-season, McGregor is demanding improvement from some of his established stars on the verge of higher honours.

    "Tyson [Frizell's] at the right age, Jack de Belin's at the right age, Cam McInnes is coming off a career best year and I think if we can have a good learning from what we've done well and haven't done so well for 2018 then we have a nice blueprint," McGregor said.

    "We're not complete - that's for sure - but as a coach I feel we're in a better place than at any other time at this time of year.

    "I think a lot of those guys did go to the next level last year ... they all had good years individually, but we weren't consistent as a team. For those guys outside of James, Gareth [Widdop] and Ben to get rep honours they need to be consistent week in week out in the NRL. Then the club will be the beneficiary and they'll get rewards from it.

    "They can't rest on individually on anything they've done in the past because the team didn't reach the finals last year. The big thing for us is closing the gap between our best and worst performances."


    https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/sp...ne-s-secrets-for-dragons-20180304-p4z2sg.html
     
  14. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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  15. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    Aitken set for big season as St George Illawarra opener nears
    Dragons Den News
    [​IMG]
    In full flight: Euan Aitken is confident of reaching his potential in 2018 after overcoming a string of injuries. Picture: AAP Images/Craig Golding.
    St George Illawarra Dragons centre Euan Aitken is looking forward to a big 2018 after using the off-season to overcome shoulder and hamstring injuries.

    The 22-year-old’s 57-game NRL career has been derailed by multiple injuries since a promising debut in 2015 and Aitken is confident he has finally put the issues behind him.

    “I think there’s a lot more potential for myself,” Aitken said. “I’ve got to tap into that, get my body right and I’ll strive to bigger things.

    “I’ve obviously set goals to make representative honours in the future and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”

    The comments come on the eve of the Dragons NRL season opener against Brisbane at Jubilee Oval on Thursday night. The match marks the official debut of highly touted recruits Ben Hunt and James Graham, and Aitken’s first competitive game since August.

    Aitken’s 2017 campaign ended prematurely after a shoulder dislocation in round 24 forced him to undergo a shoulder reconstruction. The injury came at the end of a frustrating season for Aitken, with the centre playing just 12 games due to hamstring injuries and the shoulder dislocation.

    However, the operation provided Aitken with the time to fully overcome the hamstring troubles and he’s confident epidural injections and strength work have him ready to go.

    “The shoulder’s good. It’s probably about 95 to 100 per cent, so it’s a little bit achy, but no problems tackling, so I’m ready to go.

    “I’ve had two trial games already, so it’s given me a bit of experience there and getting used to the shoulder, and getting my body right, so it’s all good.

    “The hamstrings are working well now as well. I’ve got through two trial games and we’re slowly building in, keeping my speed under wraps and making sure we’re getting through everything there. As I said, it’s about getting some consistency in the game and when I do that I reckon I’ll be playing some good footy.”

    Overcoming the injury bug, Aitken says, is the key to achieving his State of Origin and Australian representative dreams.

    “As long as I get the body right and I’m fit and ready to go, week in, week out, I think the sky is the limit.

    “I’ve got to keep working on individual things and obviously when we gel together as a team on the right side, I think we’re only going to get better and help each other get better as well.

    “Any kid has [ambitions of playing for NSW], if you play for NSW through the ranks, you always set that goal of playing Origin.

    “Obviously I’m worried about the Dragons and letting my footy do the talking through them and if rep honours come along through the years, I’ll be stoked of course.”

    If Aitken is able to stay healthy and remain on the paddock, he will have the opportunity to play outside former Bronco Hunt.

    “That calibre of player is going to give you clean ball and he’s a leader around the park too, so he’s going to be working well with Gareth Widdop.”

    http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/5264591/healthy-aitken-keen-for-higher-honours/?cs=3713
     
  16. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    McInnes confident as Dragons prepare for NRL season-opener
    Local Sport
    [​IMG]
    Season kickoff: Cameron McInnes says the Dragons are confident heading into Thursday's clash with the Broncos.
    St George Illawarra Dragons hooker Cameron McInnes is confident the team has addressed the defensive issues exposed by South Sydney in the Charity Shield.

    The Dragons fell 22-18 after Bunnies dummy half Damien Cook exploited defensive deficiencies through the middle of the field.

    However, McInnes feels the team’s overall trial performances were promising and he’s confident the Dragons will deliver in Thursday night’s season-opener against the Broncos.

    “It will be great to start the year off on the right note,” McInnes said. “It can definitely set the tone for your year. Against the Broncos, it’s going to be a good challenge first up, but we’re ready for it and it will give us a good indication of where we’re at and where we’ve got to improve.

    “You’re never where you want to be at this time of year, if you think you are there, then you’re dreaming. In attack we’ve put some good footy together and I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. It’s probably more our defence in certain areas.

    “At this time of the year there’s always things for you to work on. If we can get our defence right against most teams, then we’ll be good.”

    McInnes is confident adjustments have been made to ensure Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough doesn’t replicate Cook’s performance when he takes to the field on Thursday night.

    “It’s not a concern. In some of the stats we saw, our missed tackles against Souths were half of what they missed and our tackle efficiency was over 90 per cent.

    “It was just more the play the ball speed, we were letting them up too quickly.

    “If we can put weight on them, work with the referees, we won’t have any problems with that, because our contact’s good and blokes working to get to tackles is good.

    “There’s only little things we have to clean up so there’s no concerns with it, but it was a good opportunity for us to learn in that environment, in a game with no points on the line.”

    The Broncos boast an explosive and unpredictable backline, led by halves Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima. The key to shutting those players down, according to Dragons centre Euan Aitken, is to get off the defensive line and take away their attacking space.

    “We just need to get forward and make sure we make our one on one tackles,” Aitken said. “Obviously they’ve got quality players there, Jordan Kahu, James Roberts, if we get forward and defend together, I think we’ll shut them down.”

    While the threat of rain hovers over Kogarah for Thursday night, McInnes believes there won’t be too many tactical adjustments for the Dragons.

    “In terms of our game plan, it probably doesn’t change a lot because we’re a power based team with the big forwards we have,” McInnes said.

    “With my kicking game, that’s something I am looking to implement a lot more this year. Also Ben Hunt’s such a great kicker of the footy, I reckon he’s probably one of the best in the game, so if he has a good look, then I’ll be giving him the ball.”

    http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/5266630/dragons-prepared-for-sharp-brisbane-attack/?cs=302
     
  17. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    CLUB NEWS

    Graeme Langlands public tribute
    Author
    Dragons.com.au dragons.com.au
    Timestamp
    Tue 6 Mar 2018, 02:00 PM

    St George Illawarra Dragons and rugby league fans in general are encouraged to arrive early to Jubilee Oval, Kogarah on Thursday night to take part in the public tribute to Immortal Graeme Langlands.

    The club's Round 1 fixture marks the first official match since Langlands passed away (January 20, 2018) and the club, together with the NRL and former teammates, plan to acknowledge and recognise his rugby league achievements.

    As part of the proceedings, representatives of the Langlands family will receive commemorative premiership medals in honour of the four grand finals Langlands won with the Dragons between 1963 and 1966

    A plaque will also be unveiled in honour of 'Changa'.

    Video tributes and highlights of his outstanding club and representative career will also be played as fans have the opportunity to celebrate the rugby league achievements and talents of Langlands.

    "It will be a wonderful occasion and opportunity for not only Dragons fans, but all fans of rugby league to come and celebrate the career of Chang," former Dragon Steve Edge said.

    "There are some great video packages and moments to remember and share and it is great that many of his former teammates will also be in attendance."

    Gates open on Thursday at 6:30pm with the ceremony scheduled to begin at 6:45pm. The first 10,000 fans through the gates will also receive a special commemorative tribute booklet.

    https://www.dragons.com.au/news/2018/03/06/graeme-langlands-public-tribute/
     
  18. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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  19. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    Pressure Gauge: Why this is the year we judge Paul McGregor, according to Mark Gasnier
    NRL Premiership
    • March 6, 2018 6:00am
    • by Simon Brunsdon and John Dean
    • Source: FOX SPORTS
    [​IMG]
    Pressure Gauge: NRL round one 2018.Source: FOX SPORTS
    ST GEORGE Illawarra coach Paul McGregor faces a boom or bust season and will be under pressure to prove his coaching credentials in 2018, according to club legend Mark Gasnier.

    McGregor is about to kick off his fourth full season in charge of the Dragons, having been catapulted into the job midway through 2014 to replace the sacked Steve Price.

    The Red V finished 11th that year and have since finished eighth (2015), 11th (2016), and ninth (2017), while only playing a solitary finals game.



    [​IMG]
    Dragons season preview


    But Gasnier says the past three years has merely been building up to this coming season, when we will finally be able to gauge just what ‘Mary’ is made of.

    “You’ve got to remember he came in at a tough time when a lot of people were leaving. Without any disrespect to the players he inherited a roster he probably didn’t want,” Gasnier told foxsports.com.au.

    “This year I think Mary can genuinely be judged on his coaching.

    “The last two years I thought to be honest he punched above his weight. I thought he overachieved in regard to the squad he actually had.

    “I think this year they’ve got a genuine top-eight team and I think he’ll go really well.”

    [​IMG]
    St George-Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregor. Picture: John AppleyardSource: News Corp Australia
    This time 12 months ago McGregor was one of the most under-pressure coaches in the NRL.

    But a hot start to the season had the Dragons sitting atop the competition ladder after a third of the season, and he was re-signed on a new two-year deal.

    The Red V performed admirably in 2017 but they’ve added representative halfback Ben Hunt and veteran forward James Graham to their roster, sparking plenty of excitement and expectation among fans.

    Gasnier says a pass mark will be qualifying for finals.


    “I think their roster is a lot better this year because there is stability in key areas,” he said.

    “I think it’s a better balanced team. I think Ben Hunt is crucial, Cameron McInnes off the season he had would hopefully grow in confidence.

    “I think they are a lot better balanced.

    “Their attack might take a little time to click because of the two new key men in the spine, but I think they’ll be good.”

    The Dragons kick off the season against Brisbane at Kogarah on Thursday night.

    See who’s under the pump this week in Pressure Gauge!

    https://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nr...r/news-story/9b2d0694fc61925e67630ba319f5f944
     
  20. getsmarty

    getsmarty Coach

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    We're kidding ourselves if St George Illawarra Dragons don't play finals: Jack de Belin
    • Dragon's Den
      [​IMG]
      Big year ahead: St George Illawarra forward Jack de Belin has big plans for 2018. Picture: Chris Lane

    • There are no more excuses. There is nowhere to hide.

      Jack de Belin has a blunt message for his teammates and the club’s fans, saying St George Illawarra are kidding themselves if they do not reach the NRL finals in 2018.

      The Dragons kick off the NRL season when they host former coach Wayne Bennett and the Brisbane Broncos at Jubilee Oval, Kogarah.

      St George Illawarra have under achieved in recent seasons, reaching the finals only once in the last six years. Last season, the Dragons were just the third team since the top-eight system was introduced to miss the finals after leading at the end of the seventh round. They also had the highest for-and-against (+83) of any team to miss the finals in the 2000s. Captain Gareth Widdop even labelled the season a failure.

      But a new season and new faces have brought a new vibe to the red V.

      The club have recruited strongly, with Australian and Queensland State of Origin representative Ben Hunt arriving to play halfback alongside five-eighth Widdop. While they have lost incumbent Test centre Josh Dugan to fierce local rivals Cronulla, coach Paul McGregor is likely to hand the No.1 jersey to exciting Penshurst RSL junior Matt Dufty.

      And, with England international James Graham added to a forward pack that includes Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan, Tariq Sims and de Belin, McGregor told the Leader in December it was the best squad he had ever coached.

      It is that underwhelming recent past and the promise of what could be in 2018 that has de Belin believing that anything but St George Illawarra playing finals football would be another failure.

      “You’d want to think [we’ll play] at least finals footy and give it a red hot shake,” he said.

      “I suppose that’s a goal of ours to make the top four. Obviously we've let ourselves down the last couple of years not playing finals footy.

      “I suppose this is kind of our year now. We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t make it.”

      The club also lost influential back-rower Joel Thompson to Manly but have a number of young forwards with potential. Local juniors Jacob Host, Hame Sele and Luciano Leilua will all challenge for a first grade spot alongside new signing Jeremy Latimore.

      But de Belin believes the club have the back of the scrum covered despite 29-year-old Thompson’s move to the northern beaches.

      “Having a player like Joel, he was a great asset to the club on and off the field,” de Belin said.

      “He’s definitely a leader and someone that brings a lot of energy and chat on the field as well. He was an essential part of our team but that’s life and that’s football, people move on.

      “Obviously we’ve got a big hole to fill but at the same time we’ve got a lot of quality back-rowers in Tariq Sims, [Luciano Leilua] and Frizz. We’re pretty sweet there.”

      This season also promises to be a big one personally for de Belin. At 26-years-old and almost 130 NRL games under his belt, he is approaching the prime years of his career.

      While NSW coach Brad Fittler has a number of options in his back row including Blues captain Boyd Cordner, Josh Jackson, Sharks forward Wade Graham and Dragons teammate Frizell, de Belin is determined to have as strong a start as he did to the 2017 campaign to force his way into State of Origin reckoning with the Blues.

      “I feel like I know my role and where I’m at and what I can provide to a team,” de Belin said.

      “I suppose every year I’m still improving and getting better. And this year is no different. I’m still looking to take that step forward… higher rep honours, playing State of Origin and representing my country.

      “Any player wants to hear that, [that] they’ll be picking the team on merit and not previous years. If your form warrants it hopefully you should get picked and that’s obviously what it comes down to. I’m going to be putting my best foot forward for the Dragons.”

      Obviously we've let ourselves down the last couple of years not playing finals footy. I suppose this is kind of our year now. We’re kidding ourselves if we don’t make it.

      Jack de Belin
      De Belin is hoping another mammoth pre-season will provide a similarly explosive start to St George Illawarra’s 2018 campaign despite going down in their annual Charity Shield clash to South Sydney in Mudgee.

      The Dragons were slow out of the blocks in pre-season last season, including a sluggish showing in their Charity Shield loss to Souths. But a fortnight later they smashed Penrith 42-10 in atrocious conditions in their season opener.

      The red V faithful will hope for much of the same on Thursday night.

      http://www.theleader.com.au/story/5...lves-if-we-dont-play-finals-de-belin/?cs=3833
     

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