The Newsroom previews each team for the 2015 National Rugby League season. Today, the St George Illawarra Dragons.
The St George Illawarra Dragons have not made the finals since 2012 but if their pre-season form is anything to go by they will be in the mix to qualify this season. The historic club held the defending champions South Sydney to a 12-all draw then beat the Warrington Wolves in last week’s World Series.
Last season: 11th place
In: George Rose (Melbourne Storm) Kris Keating (Hull KR), Eto Nabuli (Penrith Panthers), Rulon Natira (Bulls, NZ), Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard and Dane Nielsen (New Zealand Warriors), Jake Marketo (Queensland Cup), Heath L’Estrange (Sydney Roosters), Beau Henry (Gold Coast Titans)
Out: Brett Morris (Canterbury Bulldogs), Jack Bird, Kyle Stanley and Gerard Beale (Cronulla Sharks), Matt Groat (Salford, English Super League), Michael Witt (retired), Josh Ailomai (Queensland Cup), Jack Stockwell (Newcastle Knights), Adam Quinlan (Parramatta Eels)
Strengths: The Dragons are a high mobility team. They may not always be the biggest and toughest, but they can move fast when required. Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop provide a halves combination that will be hard to combat. As individuals these players are electrifying and very dangerous. If they can form an immense partnership, they will take the Dragons a long way this season.
Weaknesses: Their forward pack has never been big enough and, even with changes that have been made, they still suffer in this regard. Especially when they face larger opponents.
Key players: Benji Marshall. The former Tiger is not just known for his fancy footwork, he has also made a name for himself with his kicking game. Marshall is a dual international and his experience will be key in this young side.
Coach: Former St George and Illawarra Steeler Paul McGregor took over midway through 2014 following the sacking of Steve Price. He did his best to get results out of his players but could not produce a final position worth bragging about. He has the confidence from the team, and with a full off-season under his belt, expect him to be better prepared and ready to go come kick off.
Prediction: 7th. They can be unpredictable at times but promising pre-season results could see them follow through and make it into the top eight. – Joseph Walz
Top photo from JunkByJo’s Flickr photostream.