St. George Illawarra Dragons 2024 season preview

St. George Illawarra Dragons 2024 season preview

2023 recap

2023 was a shocker of a season for the Dragons, who recorded their worst ever campaign as a joint venture. A couple of six-game losing streaks kept them firmly rooted in the bottom half of the table and the sacking of coach Anthony Griffin after round 11 was inevitable, seemingly before the season had even started. There were a couple of positives to come out of 2023 though – star man Ben Hunt backtracked on his release demand, and will still be a Dragon in 2024, while the arrival of Premiership-winning coach Shane Flanagan for the new season was announced well before the end of the year.

2023 position: 16th

Key signings

Corey Allan (Sydney Roosters), Tom Eisenhuth (Melbourne Storm), Raymond Faitala-Mariner (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Kyle Flanagan (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Jesse Marschke (North Sydney Bears), Hame Sele (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Christian Tuipulotu (Manly Sea Eagles)

Key departures

Billy Burns (Cronulla Sharks), Jaiyden Hunt (Brisbane Broncos), Alex Lobb (Wests Tigers), Tautau Moga (retired), Zane Musgrove (Warrington Wolves), Jayden Sullivan (Wests Tigers)

Players to watch

There’ll be plenty of pressure on Kyle Flanagan when the half-back runs out for his fourth different NRL club in 2024. Once a promising youngster at the Sharks, Flanagan’s moves to the Roosters and the Bulldogs never really worked out, but he’s still only 25, and the chance to reunite with his dad, Shane, as head coach could spark a revival this year.

Jack Bird is another player who’s set to benefit from the arrival of Shane Flanagan as head coach. The five-time NSW rep won a Premiership with Flanno during his time at the Sharks, and after a stop-start few years due to injury, he’ll be given a chance to cement himself in the centres in 2024. If he’s fit and firing, the Dragons will have a real strike weapon on their hands.

Young gun

Corey Ackers is on the fringes of the first grade squad, and 2024 could be the year when the forward makes his NRL debut. The teenager has been a powerhouse in the junior competitions, and a couple of injuries could open the door for him this year.

Our prediction – 14th

After a few years of turmoil, the arrival of Shane Flanagan appears to have brought some much-needed stability to the Dragons, but when I look at their squad I can’t see them making any major improvements on the ladder. If everyone’s fit, their starting XIII is a match for anyone on their day, but a couple of injuries could derail them more than most clubs, and I’m struggling to see a major turnaround in 2024. Finals footy looks a real long shot, but if they can knock on the door of the top 8, then it’ll be good progress ahead of 2025.

Darren Notley

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