Club legend Young to lead Dragons into new era
By Adrian ProszenkoSeptember 25, 2021 — 1.38pm
He’s played for, captained and coached the Dragons, now club legend Craig Young is tasked with guiding St George Illawarra into a new era after being appointed chairman of the club.
Young will take over when the three-year tenure of current chairman Andrew Gordon ends in November. It’s one of the few roles the man affectionately known as “Albert” has yet to hold during a lifetime devoted to the club.
Young won two premierships as a player, earning man of the match honours in the 1977 decider before leading the Red V to glory two years later as captain. The former NSW and Australia forward went on to coach the Dragons, has worked as the club’s recruitment manager and has also served on the joint-venture’s board.
The 65-year-old, a Dragons life member and chairman of the St George District Rugby League Football Club, will now take over as chairman of the NRL club, as per a constitution that requires the role to be shared between members of the Illawarra and St George sides of the merger.
Young, whose son Dean has also played for and coached the Dragons, declined to comment on his appointment until he officially begins his tenure in November. However, outgoing chair Andrew Gordon said it would be a seamless transition.
“I look forward to serving on the board under his chairmanship,” Gordon said.
Dragons great Craig Young will take be St George Illawarra chairman in November.CREDIT:GETTY
Gordon led the club during one of its most tumultuous periods: the Dragons parted ways with Paul McGregor before his contract expired to usher in Anthony Griffin; the Jack de Belin court case and suspension rocked the club for three seasons; barbecue-gate cruelled what had been a promising 2021 campaign; and then there was the constant challenge of operating in the COVID-19 era.
“You couldn’t have picked it to be a more interesting time on many fronts,” Gordon said. “Jack de Belin through to the coach, through to dealing with COVID. That’s the trifecta right there.
“It was a pretty unique period for the club.”
The de Belin saga perhaps was the greatest challenge of them all. The former NSW lock was suspended for two-and-a-half seasons under the NRL’s no-fault stand-down policy after being charged with sexual assault. He maintained his innocence throughout and was allowed to return in June when the charges were dropped after two trials resulted in hung juries.
The Dragons stood by de Belin and were required to fulfil contractual requirements even when their star forward was suspended. Gordon believes the NRL’s stand-down policy requires review.
“We were the guinea pigs for it,” he said. “It will be interesting to see how it is dealt with in the future. There might be some thoughts about how long a period clubs are expected to bear the brunt of costs of living with these things.
“We went three years living with that situation. You would want to think there is something learnt from the game in terms of us going through that as guinea pigs in that experience.
“It kind of proved the scenario that the club must stand resolute in not signing someone’s fate before the courts do. There’s a lot to be said to that legal side of it, to condemning someone outside of the process.
“There are a few parties, as we have seen, who have been guilty of that.
“[If we sacked him] we would be in the firing line.
“As employers, we had a contract that we had to abide by legally. That wasn’t just a matter of making up our own decision and throwing caution to the wind in terms of that.”
The Dragons appeared on track for a finals appearance until Paul Vaughan’s infamous house party. The incident, and the ensuing suspensions, effectively cruelled the season, losing their final eight matches.
“It doesn’t get much more unfortunate than that scenario,” Gordon said.
“We just hope going forward that the football department will have a roster and playing group where the standard is disciplined enough to not fall into these sorts of things.”
The Dragons finished 11th in their first year under Griffin, who is contracted until the end of 2022. Gordon said it was always going to take time for the former Penrith and Brisbane coach to overhaul the squad he inherited.
“He acquitted himself well in terms of what he had with his roster,” Gordon said. “The instant gratification factor that people have these days, it’s pretty abysmal in terms of patience. The hard fact is that coaches have to build up their roster with what their viewpoints and strategies are.
“It does take time, it’s not an overnight process. I look forward to seeing how things shape up next year and I’m really optimistic about how it will come together.”
Gordon revealed there were plans for the club to open a centre of excellence in Wollongong.
“We’re looking to make an exciting announcement about where we have got to with that in the not-too-distant future,” he said.
Outgoing Dragons chairman Andrew Gordon reflects on a surreal stint in which he presided over the Jack de Belin saga, the COVID-19 outbreak and barbecue-gate.