Dragons season preview

NRL expert Steve Green has put together his mammoth season preview for 2021. We’re running through every club, from his predicted wooden spooners to those he thinks will take out he premiership. Today it’s the Dragons season preview.

2020 recap

The Dragons had a horror 2020. With the Jack De Belin case hanging over the club and long-time coach Paul McGregor shown the door, things got even worse once Dean Young took over. The Dragons played horribly in their remaining games, only just managing to beat a reserve-grade Storm outfit in the final game of the year.

However, looking on the bright side, guys like Jayden Sullivan, Cody Ramsey and the Feagai twins could do what Lomax did in 2020 and turn their potential into NRL form. In 2020 Lomax showed why I’ve rated him so highly for the past few years. Others like Lawrie and Dufty also had their best years on record.

But it was the experienced guys like Norman, Hunt and Vaughan and that didn’t earn their mega salaries. And now that McInnes is gone for the season (as well as signing for the Sharks for 2022), there has to be questions asked about how well the Dragons will go in 2021.

Dragons season preview: Losses

A lot of talent was moved on in 2020, with many of them past their best or not firing. Aitken had a strong 2020, but had been patchy in recent years. His centre partner Lafai also desperately needed a change of scenery. So neither of these are big losses in my view. However the loss of Tyson Frizzell is huge. He was great for the Dragons in 2020 and along with the loss of Host, the Dragons backrow is looking very thin (considering they will remain without De Belin).

Dragons season preview: Gains

Jack Bird’s signing is a big one in my view. I am a massive fan of Bird’s game. It’s been heartbreaking to see how injury has cruelled his career. I think he will be among the standout buys for 2021 and push his way back into the NSW team. Andrew McCullough is a bit of a weird signing, but actually makes sense now that McInnes has gone down injured. Poasa Faamausili is a promising forward, whereas Alvaro is a workhorse that will get the job done when called upon.

Dragons season preview: Rookie radar

Jayden Sullivan is the man that Griffin will have to turn to if he wants to spark this Dragons attack. While Clune is a very smart number 7, and Hunt is brilliant on his day, these guys – along with Norman, have not delivered consistent enough performances to keep Sullivan out for 2021. If he can hold his own in defence, then I think Sullivan and Dufty could form a lethal combination in attack. That will provide Dragons fans with some hope for the future.

Dragons season preview: Players to watch

Paul Vaughan had one of his worst seasons on record. He went from being regarded as one of the best props in the game to middle of the pack. His mid-season suspension for breaching COVID protocols – so he could have a café lunch – kind of summed up his attitude throughout the year. While he did enough not to get dropped, 2020 was the first year where Vaughan has not scored a try. In 2014 he scored seven for the Raiders in a season, and in 2017 he scored eight for the Dragons. This stat alone shows he lacked the desperation and aggression we have seen from him in recent years.

Zac Lomax was one of the Dragons’ best most weeks in 2020. He was unlucky not to get an Origin jersey at the end of the season. Now that he has the confidence, the sky is the limit for this amazing talent. The fact that he was able to play so well despite the players around him faltering, means he is well placed to take his game to the next level if the likes of Sullivan and Dufty can get the Dragons attack to fire.

Jack Bird’s run of injuries has meant many have forgotten just what a talent he is. But I think moving him from the 1 will take some pressure off him and allow him to ease back into his NRL career. I think he is the perfect modern day lock. And with McInnes injured, I think Bird will become an elite number 13 in 2021. The decision to trial him in the centres is strange. I think that in time he will find his way into the middle.

Dragons season preview: Weaknesses

With Vaughn not firing last year and the loss of Korbin Sims, James Graham, Tyson Frizell and Jacob Host, the Dragons forwards really need their young guys to step up fast. Jackson Ford is very handy and I like Kaide Ellis. But I still think some of their big boppers like Josh Kerr and Eddie Blacker have failed to play as well as Dragons fans would hope. With Norman and Hunt underperforming and Dufty still not signed up for next year, there is a chance that 2021 is a rebuilding year for the Dragons. Griffin may use it as a season to sort out who he wants to keep for 2022. That kind of atmosphere is toxic and never leads to a high ladder position.

Dragons season preview: Strengths

If he uses them, Griffin has a ton of attacking firepower out wide. We know what Lomax and Dufty can do. But Cody Ramsay, Sullivan, Ravalawa, Feagai brothers and Pereira are all attacking options that Griffin can call upon this year. The key man then becomes Norman, who has failed to play consistently good footy. The key for Norman is to stop going for the Big Play. He instead needs to use his outside talent in a methodical and patient manner. No more triple cut out passes and cut chip kicks. If they get this right, then the Dragons will score enough to climb off the bottom of the ladder.

Dragons season preview: Ladder prediction

16th

NRL season previews

Manly
Bulldogs
Broncos
Knights

Storm
Souths
Sharks
Warriors
Eels

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