St George Illawarra bosses believed players needed a new outside voice before handing Anthony Griffin the reins as the club’s next NRL coach.
Griffin beat out interim coach Dean Young and Newcastle assistant David Furner for the role from 2021, earning himself a two-year deal and his first top job since being sacked by Penrith in 2018.
In doing so, he becomes just the second person with no former playing ties to the club in the past 20 years to hold the role, and is an entirely fresh face at the Dragons.
Since Wayne Bennett’s appointment from the outside broke their title drought in 2010, the Dragons have only hired from within at Wollongong.
Steve Price was Bennett’s right-hand man, and Paul McGregor was Price’s assistant.
If Young had won the race to be next coach, it would have continued that trend at a club that has underperformed for the past two years.
“It was time for an outside voice,” Dragons CEO Ryan Webb told AAP.
“For the playing group to have a new voice we thought was an important thing.”
Crucially, Griffin’s defensive record also helped get him over the line.
While he has never missed the finals as a coach, he has never had a season where his side has conceded 20 points ore more.
“Anthony (also) had some runs on the board. That old school discipline he is known for was appealing,” Webb said.
“Defence is the foundation.
“I don’t think it matters what sport, the successful teams all seem to revolve around one thing. Whether it’s NRL, AFL, basketball or whatever.
“That was definitely on our minds.”
The Dragons hope Young stays on as an assistant, contracted to the club for next year and having worked with Griffin at Tonga.
Webb said he would first allow him to digest the news, and was naturally disappointed but understanding after missing out on the full-time role.
The football department around Griffin could also look different.
The club will likely go down the path of an overarching general manager of football, with Ben Harran expected to get the role.
A stronger emphasis will be put on player development, with Griffin having worked with big nurseries at Penrith and Brisbane in the past.
He will also be given a role in recruitment, with that and team selection forming part of McGregor’s frustrations towards the end of his tenure.
However Webb said it remained to be decided if Griffin’s involvement in recruitment would be more significant than what McGregor was afforded.
“The coach will have a role in that recruitment committee, no doubt,” Webb said.
“And Mary did have a lot of influence. That was probably overstated. He was involved and Griffin will as well.
“We’ll still sort that all out (if it’s more of a role than McGregor). Nothing is set in stone at the moment.”