BY MATTY McP
So it’s come to this.
The Dragons have driven me to be the guy yelling at digital clouds due to their seemingly deliberate attempts to become the worst run team in the game. I don’t understand what the rationale behind their recent decisions has been, but whatever logic they’ve used, they need to adjust it, because it is not going to end well for us.
Let’s start at the top, shall we? The coach. Paul McGregor had run his course and was moved on, that’s fine. Pretty hard to argue with that. But why in the fuck, did they think that Anthony goddamn Griffin would be the answer to their problems? Forget his terrible beliefs for now. This is a guy who is renowned for getting a team to play really hard for about 60 mins, then disappear at the end of games and never really getting the true potential out of rather strong squads on paper. Sound familiar? I cannot count the amount of times Dragons blew great first halves by coming out disinterested in the second half under McGregor, I’m sure Broncos and Panthers fans feel the same about their teams under Griffin. If the brief run he had on the Fox League coverage is any indication of his half-time speeches, it’s not hard to see why teams don’t get up for the second half. The man is a walking sedative. Add to this his problematic beliefs around indigenous players in the league standing up for themselves and their beliefs (if ‘liking’ these tweets from Mark Latham is anything to go by) and it just makes for one of the most confusing and uninspiring coaching hires I can remember. Even taking a shot on a first time head coach would have been fine, it would have felt like trying, Trying and failing is better than accepting failure from the get go, which it feels they have done here.
Now on to Cameron McInnes, where the fuck do I begin with this one?
Cameron McInnes has been one of the very few shining lights on the Dragons in the last two seasons. In 2019 he would have led the league in tackles if he didn’t miss the last game and was top 3 again in 2020. He is an absolute work horse and gives everything he possibly can when he is out on the field. He has won pretty much everything he could at the club’s awards nights. Even when he was shifted to lock to allow our million-dollar halfback to play hooker, he out performed all expectations. He is a a true leader in a team that is desperately lacking them, and a rare win in the signings department for us, so WHY IN THE FUCK did the club decide “nah, you know what, we won’t offer this guy a contract for the future” and let him walk to our arch rival for a measly $500k a year to play out of position? This is a guy who would have played origin for NSW had a guy named Damien Cook not existed, and we think it makes sense to let him go and replace him with 87 year old, broken down, thought he had retired, Andrew McCullough? With not a one year deal, not even two years, but THREE GOD DAMN YEARS! At about the same price Cronulla paid McInnes. It’s malpractice.
The clubs response to this of course was not to front up to the media and explain the decision to the fans or NRL community at large. No, it was to reportedly leak a “report” that the team was looking to sign Israel Folau instead, knowing his name being involved would clog up the new cycle for 48 hours before announcing they were no longer interested. If that’s true, I can’t remember a more embarrassing, cowardly or pathetic reaction from a club. Even after the ACL injury he suffered that has ruled him out for this season I would still want to sign him to a long term deal. It’s depressing that his tenure at the club he gave so much of himself for has ended like this.
That brings us to the future. The pre-season is usually a time for false hope and inflated belief that this year will be the year. Everyone is training the house down and every local junior who has gotten the call up to first grade is the next big thing. Whilst the Dragons do have a good crop of young guys at the club, it feels like they’re a year or two away from being real factors at NRL level and to be honest, it’s hard to trust that the club will help them reach their potential. On top of that the recent recruitment policy of “the older the better” the team has seemingly employed (Merrin, McCullough, even back to Norman a few seasons ago. whilst letting the likes of Reece Robson, Jason Saab, Patrick Herbert and Luciano Leilua, go elsewhere) it’s no given they’ll even be at the club when they do reach their best. My expectations for this year could not be lower, anything above 15th on the ladder will be better than I hoped and I’m not even able to fantasise about finals football, because frankly, based on this off season alone, we don’t deserve it. As it stands we’re going to have Ben Hunt lead us into battle, a guy who has shown time and time again that leadership isn’t his strong suit, and as recently as the second half of last year was moved to five-eighth to “take some pressure off him”. As poor as this decision sounds on paper, I’m not really sure what other choice they had. There doesn’t seem to be a single leader on this team and while some guys could grow into that role, that doesn’t help right now.
So now I’ve covered all that where does that leave me? I’ve been a fan of this club for my entire life, I was born into it. I have ridden with the Dragons through four grand final losses in my formative years, the merger, every season when we got so close and stumbled at the end, the few highs and seemingly repeating, never ending lows. But this feels different. This feels more permanent.
It’s really hard to see how we get out of this, and it hurts my brain to try and work out how we got here to begin with. This little manifesto only exists because I’m so damn frustrated and unimpressed with the decisions the club has made. They are not, in my opinion, in the best interests of the club in either the long or short term. In a season in which the St George side of the joint venture is celebrating its centenary, that is heartbreaking. Will I continue to watch them every week and let the performances affect my weekend even with these rock bottom expectations? Yeah probably…and that’s the saddest part of this whole thing.
But, hey. At least the Hunters are back this year.