As we all remember, Wayne Bennett brought immediate success to the Dragons when he took over the reins in 2009.
A minor premiership in 2009, another minor premiership in 2010 plus the long-awaited grand final victory and then the World Cup Challenge in 2011.
In fact, within the first two years of Bennett’s arrival, the Dragons held every trophy available to them: the Charity Shield, World Club Challenge, Anzac Day Cup, JJ Giltinan Shield and the Provan-Summons Trophy plus the Clive Churchill Medal as the cherry on top.
So by comparison what expectations should Dragons fans have for Anthony Griffin? Should they expect a similar result in such a short period of time?
Results do in a large part depend on the cattle available to the coach so I was wondering which coach has the better starting point?
In 2008 the Dragons finished seventh with 13 wins coming off two years in 2005 and 2006 where they made credible title runs.
In 2020 the Dragons’ best place finish is likely 11th with six or seven wins. The last finals appearance was in 2018 where they finished seventh.
The 2008 team which Bennett inherited included grand final players Jason Nightingale, Brett Morris, Matt Cooper, Mark Gasnier (left in ’09 but returned in ’10) Jamie Soward, Ben Hornby, Dean Young, Beau Scott, Matt Prior, Jarrod Saffy and Ben Creagh.
Of the current 2020 squad, the only players I can think of that might make the 2010 grand final team are Cameron McInnes for Nathan Fien and Paul Vaughan for Michael Weyman.
So obviously Bennett had a far superior squad to work with than what Griffin is inheriting, so a two-year plan to win a premiership is completely unrealistic. It’s more like a five-year plan including at least a partial rebuild.
But given that Griffin has only been signed for two years and a premiership seems extremely unlikely in that time frame, what’s the plan? What results will the Dragons Board be looking for in two years to extend Griffin’s contract? I think a top-eight finish in 2021 is a must and then an improved finish in 2022 such as finishing in the top four.
It’s going to be a long road back to the top for the Dragons which will require careful squad management and some difficult decisions.
Is Anthony Griffin up to the challenge to see it through? Or will he last only the two years and then pass on the torch to Dean Young? It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.