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With their 2003 campaign all but over, St George Illawarra Dragons chief executive Peter Doust has backed Nathan Brown stating that he has an enormous amount of faith in the rookie coach.
The Dragons crashed to their third successive loss on Friday night going down 22-14 to the Melbourne Storm. With two rounds remaining before the semi-finals, the Dragons are at best a slim hope of jagging a top eight berth.
“We have always been very supportive of Nathan Brown and he is going to be a long term investment for us as coach.” Doust said.
“There's no doubt that he has had a very tough initiation in his first season [as head coach].
“We've lost guys like Trent Barrett and Jason Ryles for the season and during the year, we lost players like Lance Thompson, Mark Gasnier and Shaun Timmins for extended periods of time.”
Doust was responding to criticism that Brown was delivered the role of head coach too early. In 2002, former coach Andrew Farrar was sacked when Saints scraped into the top eight. Farrar himself came to the job following controversy when grand final coach David Waite was shown the door in 2000.
Meanwhile St George captain Lance Thompson has launched a scathing attack on Brown's critics and said that his inexperience had nothing to do with Saints falling short this year.
“People say Nathan is too young to handle the role don't know what they are talking about.” Thompson said.
“Before they start shooting their mouth off and saying things like that, they should have a look at what Brownie has done. He's brought the best out of many many players this year including a number of teenagers he was forced to throw into first grade.
“Losing Trent [Barrett] for the year was the start of the dominos falling for us in terms of injuries and inexperience has crept into our game.
“It's a massive understatement to say we have under-achieved because we all wanted and thought we were good enough to get in the top four. But I can't fault the young blokes, and you certainly can't fault Brownie.”
Even St George immortal Johnny Raper has entered the fray stating that Brown should be judge on his efforts next year rather this year.
“It's ridiculous to suggest that he is too young or inexperienced for the coaching job.” Raper said.
“But it is pretty tough on a young guy to come in with the type of football being played at the present moment.
“There's been a lot of pressure on the young guys being thrown to the wolves because of injury but I certainly wouldn't be throwing Nathan Brown to the Wolves.
"Next season will be Nathan's test... we're all going to be expecting a big year from Nathan and his team.”
Brown, a former Dragons' hooker and popular clubman with 171 first grade games, was forced into retirement in 2001 after being diagnosed with a congenital problem in the spinal chord. He gained immediate acceptance as a successful trainer and then lower grade coach in the Jersey Flegg competition. Following Farrar's departure in 2002, Brown was promoted to head coach after leap-frogging other contenders.