What's new
The Front Row Forums

Register a free account today to become a member of the world's largest Rugby League discussion forum! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!

2020 Dragons season review

Maddragon99

Juniors
Messages
1,650
This article was published online Monday let me know your thoughts I’d love the feedback.

Even though it was a shorter regular season due to COVID-19, for Dragons fans it felt like slow torture at times. Initially starting 0 & 2 prior to the stand down the writing was already on the wall. Losses to the Tigers & Panthers which should have been winnable games given that both teams missed the finals in 2019.

Then came the stand down which could have given the Dragons players & coaching staff an opportunity to reset. After all, the infamous Gus Gould review of the staff at the end of the disastrous 2019 campaign was meant to be the solution. Ben Hornby was out and Shane Flanagan was in to mentor Paul McGregor with James Shepherd serving as an assistant.

Come May 30th over 2 months since the loss to Penrith the Dragons were comfortably beaten by the Warriors 18-0. If alarm bells weren’t ringing loud enough the Dragons were then beaten the following week by the Bulldogs 22-2.

Given the shorter 20 round season it was already over. The Dragons had dropped the first 4 games all against teams who missed the finals in 2019 and they never recovered.

Then the melodrama started. An emergency Board meeting was held and the predicable vote of confidence was given to Paul McGregor. However his authority as head coach was severely curtailed. Team selection was to be now decided in a committee and the responsibility for coaching attack was given to Shane Flanagan. Marquee signing Ben Hunt was dropped to the bench as a replacement dummy half and 25yr old rookie Adam Clune was debuted at halfback. Curiously Corey Norman seamed to escape any scrutiny and remained at 6 while Ben Hunt was to spend the majority of the remaining season at dummy half.

Then came a resurgence of sorts with wins against the Sharks and Titans, the win against the Titans was also Warhorse James Graham’s final game in the NRL. But of course these wins were followed by losses to the Roosters and Raiders. A convincing win at home against a undermanned Sea Eagles had hopes rising followed by some redemption by beating the Bulldogs second time around. But once again any momentum was lost with 3 consecutive losses against the Sharks, Rabbitohs and Roosters.

At that point after round 13 not only was finals footy in 2020 out of reach but obviously after six and half years in charge Paul McGregor was never going to be the man to lead the Dragons back to greatness. Finally the decision came down from the Board that McGregor had to go. The round 14 match up against Parramatta would be McGregor’s final game in charge and seemingly out of the respect the team rallied and won in a tight finish. The 80 minute performance against the top 4 Eels had many wondering where this form had been?

With McGregor now gone and Shane Flanagan still serving his NRL coaching ban Dean Young was appointed interim coach for the final 6 rounds. First up came the Broncos in Brisbane and a confidence building performance the Dragons prevailed 28-24. Then Dean Young’s coaching dream turned into a nightmare with tepid efforts from the playing group and losses to the Titans, Cowboys, Raiders and Knights. The loss to the Knight’s stung a little more because it meant the loss of the Alex McKinnon Cup. The Cup was the only silverware the Dragons held and the Dragons had never lost the Cup before.

Dean Young’s post match interviews were refreshingly honest but also showed his frustration in not being able to get his side adequately prepared for game day. Frankly the Dragons middle defence particularly against the Raiders and Knights was soft and embarrassing. In Dean’s own words “We wouldn’t be able to beat Dapto with a performance like that.”

With Dean Young’s head coaching dreams going down in flames the brains trust at the Dragons decided to buck tradition and recruit externally and chose Anthony Hook Griffin. Griffin with his 55% winning record was a popular choice with fans but there were some conflicting opinions in the media stemming from Griffin’s time at Penrith. Griffin had fallen out with Gus Gould and Gould having performed the 2019 review where he recommended to McGregor be retained put him at odds with the Board’s decision. Nine Media was critical of Griffin but News Corp was positive.

In retrospect Paul McGregor should have been sacked after the 0-4 start coming straight off the 15th place finish in 2019. We can only hope that in the future underperforming coaches are kept on a much shorter leash.

The Board did hedge their risk by only appointing Griffin for 2 years. It’s unknown what performance expectations Griffin has been given for his contract to be extended but you’d have to think it’s finals in 2021 and top 4 in 2022.

Some would say not before time, as the season wound down Dean Young took the opportunity to blood some of the highly rated juniors coming through the Junior Pathway System. The electric Cody Ramsey was first scoring two try’s on debut against Canberra, then Max Feagai coming off the bench against Newcastle then Eddie Blacker and the most highly rated of them all Jayden Sullivan debuted in the round 20 match up against Melbourne. Sullivan’s inclusion saw Corey Norman drop out of the 17 which once again wasn’t before time.

There was a lot to take out from the round 20 win against Melbourne; Eddie Blacker is big enough to have his own post code, that was the first time I’d seen him play, he’ll definitely be a player to watch out for in 2021. Jayden Sullivan is the real deal he looked completely at home in first grade even though Melbourne put a number of shots on him. It was so refreshing having a 6 and 7 who both ran the ball to the line. Cameron McInnes is definitely the best dummy half at the club and Max Feagai hits like a hammer in defence, he’ll be right at home at left centre in 2021.

Now with 2020 in the history books we can look to 2021 with high expectations. But in reality what should we expect?

The Jack de Belin trail still hasn’t taken place and while the club has come to terms with de Belin for 2021 there’s absolutely no guarantee he’ll be available. If de Belin is available in 2021 he’d return as the corner stone of the pack.

After 3 years at the Dragons Ben Hunt remains an enigma. In 2020 Ben played 7 games at halfback and the Dragons lost all 7 games. His catch and pass style of play doesn’t challenge the defensive line and the emergence of Adam Clune has added some pressure to Hunt and I don’t think he dealt with It very well. Hunt is a effective dummy half but that means playing Cam McInnes out of position at lock. As we’ve seen these past weeks McInnes at lock leaves the forward pack undersized up the middle. The Melbourne game demonstrated McInnes returning to 9 and Tariq Sims back in the team playing lock fixed our central defence. Where Griffin plays Ben Hunt in 2021 and what production he can get out of him will be one of the top story lines during the off-season. At $1M a year salary Ben Hunt will definitely be in the team somewhere.

Corey Norman remains the most controversial player at the Dragons. On huge money and capable of sublime skill but equally capable of fundamental errors and brain fades. 2021 is the final year of his contract with the Dragons and most Dragons fans will be happy to see the back of him. The choice of persisting with Norman at 6 or investing in Jayden Sullivan will be a critical decision for Griffin. After suffering through 2 years of Norman playing 6 the pressure will be on from fans to start with Sullivan and keep Norman as a backup.

The young & talented backline led by the 21 year old Zac Lomax needs to be developed and shown patience at times. As a fan I’d love to see the kids encouraged to play what’s in front of them and move the ball around. Potentially players like Jayden Sullivan, Cody Ramsey, Zac Lomax Max and Matt Feagai could be ripping up Netstrada Kogarah Jubilee and Win Stadium for the next decade.

Like any new incoming coach you’d expect to see some movement in the playing squad. We’ve probably already seen this with the recent decisions to let Tristan Sailor and Jacob Host go. These follow on from James Graham, Tyson Frizell, Euan Aitken, Tim Lafai etc all not returning in 2021 and Kaide Ellis still unsigned. According to media reports the Dragons have $1.5M available to spend. Impossible to mind read what Griffin is thinking particularly because he’s been out of the media since his appointment. But you’d have to think there’s a lot of work being done behind the scenes to assemble the squad Griffin wants. Griffin only has 2 years to get results so he can’t afford 2021 to be a throw away year.

2020 didn’t have to be a disaster, rather than starting 0-4 all those games were winnable, a 4-0 start would have seen us in the eight. But in the end if we needed 2019 and 2020 to be disasters to force the Board to sack McGregor then maybe it’s all for the best in the long run. Also Corey Norman was dropped twice during this season once for Sailor and once for Sullivan. So this proves it is possible to drop a $850K player for the good of the team something I hope Griffin takes into 2021.

My personal opinion is that the Dragons have the basics in place to be a top eight side. Some intelligent recruitment and more devoted development of juniors will get us moving up the table. In the 14 weeks McGregor was coach this year he debuted only one player. Just not good enough.

I've intentionally not entered into speculation about recruitment targets I’d rather put my faith in Griffin and let the facts play out. Griffin is meeting with the playing group this Wednesday so perhaps we’ll find out more detail then.

In closing the one thing that is critical is the Dragons get off to a strong start to 2021 Starting 6 from 7 & winning the ANZAC Day game will set the season up. A slow start will leave us to win a lot of games at the back end of the season and I’m not sure we’d make it.
 

Gareth67

First Grade
Messages
7,303
Certainly showed just how much the man was ‘ in over his head ‘ yet those ignorant berstards of the board kept delaying his execution . Well his gone for good now , still has his head , but I doubt that he will need to use it for anything other then staring into the mirror .
 

getsmarty

Referee
Messages
28,890
ramsrc1_2620.jpg


TELSTRA TRACKER


Presented By


Stat Attack: Ramsey's efforts give Dragons hope for future
Author
Troy Whittaker NRL.com Reporter
Timestamp
Thu 1 Oct 2020, 11:01 AM

The Dragons endured a disappointing season but there were enough bright sparks from the emergence of some young talent to provide hope for 2021.

Winger Cody Ramsey made a spectacular entrance to the NRL with two tries on debut in round 18, but Telstra Tracker data shows he also possesses the work ethic to potentially take him to the top.

Ramsey produced 42 high-speed efforts - bursts of 20km/h or more - in St George Illawarra's 30-22 win against Melbourne in round 20.

ttracker-3-high-speed-efforts_20201001.jpg

Not only was that far and away the most of the round, Ramsey drew level with Ryan Papenhuyzen, Clint Gutherson and teammate Jason Saab for the top match-total of the season.

In round 20, he beat Eels fullback Gutherson (33 high-speed efforts), Storm No.1 Papenhuyzen (33), Knights centre Bradman Best (32) and Melbourne winger Sandor Earl (32).

Ramsey also finished third on the weekly leaderboard for most distance covered, with his 9.8km only trailing Sharks five-eighth Connor Tracey (10km) and Dragons teammate Zac Lomax (9.9).

ttracker-1-max-distance_20201001.jpg

Warriors halfback Chanel Harris-Tavita also clocked up 9.8km while Newcastle captain Mitchell Pearce finished with 9.6km.

Cowboys dynamo Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow was the fastest man of the last round having reached 35.2km/h in a win over the Broncos.

ttracker-2-max-speed_20201001.jpg

St George Illawarra custodian Matt Dufty (34.8km/h), Brisbane winger Xavier Coates (34.2), Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses (34) and Rabbitohs flyer Alex Johnston 33.9 completed the top five.


https://www.nrl.com/news/2020/10/01/stat-attack-ramseys-efforts-give-dragons-hope-for-future/
 

Slippery Morris

First Grade
Messages
6,211
Only positive is Mary being punted. It was like a GF for us fans seeing an end to this disaster and not having another offseason wasted. It was also good to see Young take over and show he is not capable of coaching the Dragons. Still needs some more experience and Cowboys will do him wonders. He should have gone to England.

Apart from that a missed opportunity to make finals seeing Sharks got in. Sharks were terrible and I can't believe they are playing finals.

Good to see Sullivan and Ramsey given a run in the end to taste NRL.
 

thebigredv

Bench
Messages
3,701
2019 and 2020 were the worst two seasons in my lifetime.

I have no belief in our 90% of our players. Poor coaching or not they have showed very little resilience or personal belief - our halves are the best example of this. Pride in the jersey is only evident in one player who doesn't need naming and maybe some of the brand new debutants.
I accept Griffin will need to rebuild the club from personnel, to culture, to results, and this will be many years in the making. No immediate success ahead. As I said before, if he gets us proud of our team again he would have done a good job.
 

SBD82

Coach
Messages
13,882
2019 and 2020 were the worst two seasons in my lifetime.

I have no belief in our 90% of our players. Poor coaching or not they have showed very little resilience or personal belief - our halves are the best example of this. Pride in the jersey is only evident in one player who doesn't need naming and maybe some of the brand new debutants.
I accept Griffin will need to rebuild the club from personnel, to culture, to results, and this will be many years in the making. No immediate success ahead. As I said before, if he gets us proud of our team again he would have done a good job.
This is a hundred percent correct. If Griffin is going to rebuild our culture, we are going to have to be patient with him.

I don’t expect to make the finals next year. Whether or not Griffin is heading in the right direction will need to be judged by the way the team plays, not by results.
 

getsmarty

Referee
Messages
28,890
This is a hundred percent correct. If Griffin is going to rebuild our culture, we are going to have to be patient with him.

I don’t expect to make the finals next year. Whether or not Griffin is heading in the right direction will need to be judged by the way the team plays, not by results.

100% correct....players will need to learn how to defend properly after 7 years of back-peddling and not sliding together. I feel extremely positive with the appointments, but as you correctly stated it will take time to undo all the mess from the last 7 years.

The way I see it..21 is a massive rebuild and hopefully depending on who we can recruit 22 we can start to expect to be playing semi's footy. Anything else will be a bonus.
 
Last edited:

ALSGI

Bench
Messages
3,051
Whether or not Griffin is heading in the right direction will need to be judged by the way the team plays, not by results.
Spot on.
Would love to see some fire in everyone’s belly’s not just a few individuals. Even the bench just sit there emotionless atm.

We need a few talkers on the field too, to challenge refs and to charge the team up when the heads drop. Graham was the closest to this when he was on, JDB and Widdop to a lesser extent.

When was the last time we had a good talker in the squad? Hornby and Soward I’m thinking.
 
Last edited:

Maddragon99

Juniors
Messages
1,650
This is a hundred percent correct. If Griffin is going to rebuild our culture, we are going to have to be patient with him.

I don’t expect to make the finals next year. Whether or not Griffin is heading in the right direction will need to be judged by the way the team plays, not by results.

So what are you saying? You’d be happy with a result similar to O'Brien’s with the Titans? A gallant 9th place?

I think we can make the finals if we get off to a good start.
 
Top