That's Week 1 of #NRLTrials complete ✅ Get all the scoring details for every game right here in one ...
23 hours ago - 8 Likes
A season that offered so much, ultimately delivered very little for the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2017.
Tipped to be propping up the ladder by punters in the pre-season, the Dragons shocked the NRL to be leading the table after 10 rounds, with stout defense and an exciting brand of ad-lib footy surprising opposition teams - a complete departure from their 2016 style.
But just like 2015, when the boys from Kogarah & Wollongong led the table at the midway point of the season, they couldn't sustain it, and fell into a swirl of bad form that cost themselves a finals place.
Puff the magic Dragon ran out of said puff in the back half of 2017, and now there are more questions than answers heading into the off season, with the Red V recording just one finals appearance in the last six seasons - bundled out in a Week 1 elimination final in that solitary appearance.
ANZAC Day. The Dragons had been in red hot form heading into this clash but the loss of both Gareth Widdop and Josh Dugan hurt the Red V who had kept in touch with the Roosters for the whole game. The golden point loss seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Dragons and it was a gradual slippery slope out of the top 8 for the joint-venture outfit.
St George Illawarra invested heavily in their forward pack yet again with the addition of Paul Vaughan from Canberra, to add to the likes of Joel Thompson, Jack DeBelin, Russell Packer and Tariq Sims.
The forwards ran amok during the early rounds, and for the most part, continued on a consistent basis for the whole season. Vaughan's 8 tries for the Red V were the most by a prop since the 1999 merger. The power game through the middle was one of the highlights of the Dragons play in 2017.
A lack of points in the 2nd half of the season hurt the Dragons as they stumbled towards the finish line. Defensively, the Red V struggled to contain teams once they got on a roll too, as was evident in their Round 26 defeat against the Bulldogs that ended their season in heartbreaking fashion.
Their penchant for switching off in games also affected the team's success.
The development of young fullback Matt Dufty will inspire confidence within the fanbase, as his pace and directness in the last six weeks was a welcome change for the Red V, despite missing the finals.
Long known as a development club, both the Dragons' direct feeder clubs performed admirably in 2017.
Illawarra RLFC (a rebranded Cutters, playing under the Dragons badge) didn't successfully defend their title, although they did make it to week two of the ISP finals, having knocked over Mounties in week one, triumphant with the last play of the game. Ironically, it was Canterbury - who'd knocked their NRL side out in Round 26 - who disposed of them in week two.
The NYC side disappointingly lost to eventual premiers Manly in the Preliminary Final, the second time in three seasons the side has fallen at the Grand Final qualifier stage. However, the future looks bright with many Dragons juniors aiming to progress to the top squad.
The Dragons will be hoping that 2018 can be an improvement on last season as the signing of James Graham further bolsters their solid forward pack.
Ben Hunt will be the star man for the red and white, and if he can replicate his 2015 form with the Broncos, then there is no doubt the Dragons will be playing finals footy in 2018.
Ultimately, if the Red V can't make the top 8 with an expensively assembled squad next year, you'd think it would be time up for coach Paul McGregor.