The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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It is the hope that will kill you in rugby league and hope is the currency which most Dragons fans have been trading in the last few years under Steve Price. Price is running his balance low coming into 2014 and will need to start well to avoid becoming bankrupt and this year following a recurring theme of mediocrity.
Last year was a disappointment for the Dragons finishing just above the wooden spoon while the team managed to sprinkle a few moments of joy highlighted by the golden point victory over South Sydney and of course the capture of Josh Dugan who was sacked from Canberra following alcohol related incidents.
Price has made some moves to rectify this and hopefully jumpstart the stuttering Dragons attack for 2014 including signing a possible new halves pairing in Gareth Widdop and Sam Williams. They will line-up alongside Mick Cooper, Joel Thompson and Dylan Farrell to name a few will carry the hopes of the Dragon Army. St George do possess some young talent from their own ranks including Adam Quinlin, Charly Runcimann and Craig Garvey.
Fans will hope this mixture of youth and experience will propel them into the top half of the table which will be a result after two seasons of barely scrapping ahead of Parramatta near the basement of the NRL. If not – 2014 will be another to forget for a club that was a fixture in the finals under the Bennett administration.
Where they will win it
If the Dragons want to be any chance of making the finals or improving, they will need to strike up an understanding between their spine players quickly – Dugan, Widdop and whoever Price fits into the halfback position (Stanley, Williams or Witt). They need to create more options for the two representative wingers Morris and Nightingale who both have a knack for finding the white stripe.
Where they will struggle
Attack – St George Illawarra were ranked 15th in attack just in front of Parramatta for points scored in 2013 continuing a worrying trend of being unable to convert the domination that the forwards laid into points highlighted by the round 2 loss to Brisbane in Wollongong. Pair these woes with the worrying deterioration of fabled defensive structures under Wayne Bennett that from early glances hasn't improved makes for a long year for the Dragons.
The Dugan – since he moved from Canberra to Sydney's south, Johs has been the focal point of the Dragons attack and to the RTA's dismay, Price didn't have a Plan B. Every win in the latter part of 2013 came from his off the cuff options so it will test the Dragons in the opening month not having the former NSW fullback available.
Rookie to Watch
Charly Runciman got a few games in the top grade towards the back end of 2013 showing why he represented NSW in the NYC origin series. He has large shoes to fill in Matt Cooper's position but his strength and speed will make the young centre a worthwhile replacement in the number four jersey for St George Illawarra.
The Big Plays
Can the Dragons find their attacking rhythm? Will Josh Dugan stay fit and out of trouble for the entire of 2014? and will we see a return of the feracious Dragons defence of the Wayne Bennett years? If the Dragons start poorly will Steve Price make it to round 10? These questions make for an intriguing 2014 for the joint venture.
Possible Line-up Round 1 (vs Tigers)
Gerard Beale 2. Brett Morris 3. Dylan Farrell 4. Charly Runciman 5. Jason Nightingale 6. Gareth Widdop 7. Sam Williams/Kyle Stanley 8. Jack De Belin 9. Mitch Rein 10. Dan Hunt 11. Joel Thompson 12. Leeson Ah Mau 13. Trent Merrin
Interchange: 14. Jack Stockwell 15. Mike Cooper 16. Tyson Frizell 17. Bronson Harrison