I’m extremely happy to hear the news that Anthony ‘Hook’ Griffin has been appointed head coach of the St George Illawarra Dragons for the next two years. The Dragons got the man they wanted.
Griffin has an established winning record and a no-nonsense reputation. His winning percentages were 53 per cent at Brisbane and 58 per cent at Penrith, plus he did well bringing on the youth at the Panthers.
In the end all the speculation in the media over Wayne Bennett making a comeback was simply that, speculation. Bennett is contracted to Souths until the end of 2021. Craig Fitzgibbon was never going to leave Easts, and I said as much here in June. Flanagan is banned until 2022 and brings a lot of baggage with him.
Anthony Griffin was always the man the club wanted. David Furner was just a contingency in case the club couldn’t come to terms with their first pick.
The rush to appoint Griffin this week came after lacklustre performances against the Titans and Cowboys. The pressure to appoint the new head coach increased further after missing out on Christian Welch. Despite putting a significant multi-year offer to Welch, he decided to take unders and stay at Melbourne.
After previously missing out on Corey Harawira-Naera, Adam Elliott, Jack Bird, Moses Suli, Tom Johnstone and John Bateman, the penny has finally dropped that Ian Millward and co can’t get the job done without a head coach in place. Griffin can now start to build a roster he thinks he can win with.
The Dragons have a $1.5 million war chest to spend. There is apparently a 30-man wish list of players from both the NRL and English Super League that will be targeted.
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Let’s be honest, the board’s indecisive and negligent action going all the way back to McGregor’s contract extension in 2019 had put the once-mighty Dragons in jeopardy of being stuck in mediocrity. Our farm system alone isn’t enough; we need to attract talent who want to play for the Dragons because we’re seen as a club going places.
Up to now the perception of the club is that we’re a bit of a shambles, and this has made recruitment impossible. Hopefully this will now completely change.
New signings for 2021 so far is zero, while player losses stand at seven. Except for the juniors being promoted to the top 30, there’s plenty of room in the squad for some new blood. After the player losses of Tyson Frizell, James Graham, Tim Lafai, Euan Aitken et cetera there’s plenty of wriggle room in the salary cap for Griffin to work with.
I really hope Dean Young stays on as Griffin’s assistant. Even though Young missed out on the top job this time around, he’ll make a fine coach with more experience.
Shane Flanagan will be leaving at season’s end, his role as Paul McGregor’s mentor obviously superfluous now. The current rumour is he’ll be reuniting with his son at Easts, where he’ll pick up an assistant role.
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It’s anticipated Jacob Host will stay – news can’t be too far away – and the club has come to terms with Jack de Belin for 2021 dependant on the outcome of his legal proceedings.
Unless otherwise replaced, the ever-improving Jackson Ford can take over the right edge from Frizell given our depth in the backs. Jordan Pereira is a possible candidate to move to the back row in the same way Ben Creagh did. He runs as hard as any backrower around but lacks the pace of a winger.
I’m hopeful we can pick up a quality prop, an edge forward with some ball-playing skills. We don’t know if Griffin will persevere with Hunt at dummy half, particularly if Hayden Sullivan comes into the side. That will be one of the more interesting storylines.
A couple of veteran backs to help bring the youngsters on and cover for injuries would be great. Are the Morris brothers off contract? What a dream that would be!
Well, it’s a good day to be a Dragons fan. We got the ideal coach who can start to turn things around. Bring on 2021!