2013 NRL Season Preview: St George Illawarra Dragons

By Brady Foray Writers

2012 was always going to be a tough season for St George Illawarra. With their coach and star player Wayne Bennett and Darius Boyd respectively leaving for Newcastle and the retirement of veteran Mark Gasnier, the Dragons were left with several holes in their team. While rookie coach Steve Price never lacked options to fill these positions, the team never clicked in 2012.

The losses of influential veterans Ben Hornby, Dean Young and Origin forward Beau Scott, the Dragons may be hard-pressed to plug the further holes that remain this upcoming season. All may not be lost though, as the signings of journeymen Bronson Harrison and Michael Henderson and up-and-comers Josh Drinkwater, Gerard Beale and Tyson Frizell will add much needed depth to the Dragons.

Unfortunately, the season is already over for Kyle Stanley, the heir apparent to Hornby as the club’s halfback this season. In a freak accident, the young Kiwi slipped over at the club’s training ground and re-injured his ACL. With recognised hooker Nathan Fien firming to become the club’s halfback this season, an experienced or generally recognised fullback and halfback within the club is essentially non-existent at this stage.

Signings: Gerard Beale (Broncos), Tyson Frizell (Sharks), Josh Drinkwater (Sea Eagles), Michael Henderson (Titans), Bronson Harrison (Raiders), Damian Cook (Illawarra Cutters), Shannon Wakeman (Illawarra Cutters)

Departures: Denan Kemp (Dragons), Beau Scott (Knights), Dean Young (retired), Jeremy Latimore (Panthers), Ben Hornby (retired), Jack Buchanan (Tigers), Ben Musolino (Sea Eagles), David Gower (Sea Eagles), Josh Miller (retired), Nick Emmett, Jake Marketo (released)

Key to Success:

If the Dragons are to be successful this season Jamie Soward (pictured right) needs to recapture the form he demonstrated in the club’s 2010 premiership-winning season. Soward had one of his poorer seasons last season, even finding himself playing for the club’s NSW Cup side Illawarra Cutters at one point. Soward managed 13 try-assists and four line-breaks last season, well below his impact of past years. With the retirement of captain and halfback Ben Hornby, and without an experienced halfback amongst the club, it has to be Jamie Soward’s season for the taking.

Player to Watch:

With the loss of Boyd last season, the Dragons struggled to find a suitable replacement. Jason Nightingale, Stanley and Brett Morris had their moments but none  did enough to secure the No. 1 jumper. Enter young New Zealand representative and former Bronco Gerard Beale (pictured left). While he was limited to the centres or wing with his time in Brisbane, it has been said that fullback is his preferred position. Beale averaged 96 metres per game last season and produced 46 tackle breaks, nine line breaks and four try assists.

Erratic Eddy says:

“Eddy wonders how Steve Price was feeling when the Dragons put a red line through his name after just one season while they chased and threw millions of dollars at Craig Bellamy. If I was Price, Eddy would be purposely selecting Bronx Goodwin and Daniel Vidot as props and throwing the club to wolves”

“If Josh Drinkwater isn’t one of the best young rookies in the NRL this season then I will eat my hat.”

Strongest 17: 1- Gerard Beale 2- Brett Morris 3- Chase Stanley 4- Matt Cooper 5- Jason Nightingale 6- Jamie Soward 7- Nathan Fien 8- Dan Hunt 9- Mitch Rein 10- Michael Weyman 11- Ben Creagh (C) 12- Bronson Harrison 13- Matt Prior Interchange: 14- Cameron King 15- Trent Merrin 16- Jack De Belin 17- Tyson Frizell. 18th Man: Lesson Ah Mau.

Predicted Position: 15th

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