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The results of the first R2K survey are in and the survey results provide an interesting snapshot into the mindset of St.George-Illawarra supporters on the eve of 2005.
97 per cent of respondents believe that St.George-Illawarra will make the finals in 2005. Of that percentage, 13% predict that the Saints will finish first, 55% believe a top-four finish is likely and 29% feel that the Dragons will make it into the lower half of the final eight.
An overwhelming 84% of respondents are of the view that the National Rugby League should officially recognise the records of St.George-Illawarra as a continuation of those of the St.George Dragons. Currently the joint-venture Dragons are listed as having won nil premierships despite the fact that matches such as the Charity Shield are billed as traditional clashes that are rich with history.
Most supporters are willing to keep the faith in coach Nathan Brown even if the Dragons fail to make the top-four, with only 37% believing that he should be sacked if the Dragons fail to secure a home final.
On the subject of what proposed improvement to Oki Jubilee Stadium interests them the most, 74% of respondents were most interested about the proposed installation of permanent lighting, while 21% were primarily interested in the proposed new seating at the northern and southern ends of the ground.
In relation to player retention, 70% of respondents felt that the Dragons made a mistake in releasing Lincoln Withers. Withers, who was released to play with the Canberra Raiders, was a stalwart for the Dragons in 2004 and quickly became a favourite at Kogarah.
According to the respondents, David Waite is clearly the best coach over the past twenty years with an impressive 68% of the vote. In second place was Roy Masters with 13% and Brian Smith was third with 12%. The response to this question is a clear endorsement of Waite who impressively steered the Dragons to the 1996 and 1999 Grand Finals. Andrew Farrar, who was selected by the Dragons ahead of Waite in 2000, gained a mere 2% of the vote.
The response on the Dragons' best player over the last twenty years was more evenly matched. Anthony Mundine was rated first with 27%, Mark Coyne was second with 25% and Brad Mackay came third with 24%. However, it should be noted that Ricky Walford, Nathan Blacklock, Lance Thompson and Scott Gourley were not listed as options for this question. Despite this, the top three selections thoroughly deserve their place as the best Dragons since 1984.
69% of respondents believe that the Dragons will be blessed with Trent Barrett's presence for at least eleven and as many as twenty NRL matches, although 16% of the respondents feel that Barrett will play less than ten NRL matches in 2005.
Surprisingly, the Roosters rate ahead of the Sharks as the most despised team of those that participated in the survey. The Roosters captured 34%, the Sharks 30%, the Bulldogs 21% and the Broncos 9%. The feeling against the Roosters is most likely due to their moderate success over the past five years, the feeling that the Roosters have a major say in the running of the game and the bitterness over the failed Dragster merger in 1995. The proposed merger with the Roosters would surely rate as one of the lowest moments in St.George's history.
Finally, salary cap restrictions are seen as the greatest problem that the joint venture faces going forward. Salary cap restrictions picked up 33% of the vote, while the issues of player discipline and the joint venture itself gained 22%. After six seasons it's interesting that a considerable percentage of supporters still see the joint venture itself as a major problem. On this basis and in order to change public perceptions, the Dragons would do well to guarantee at least 50% of home games in the St.George District in 2006 onwards and focus on lobbying the NRL for a continuity of St.George history.