It was always going to be hard to take over a St George/Illawarra Dragons team on a downturn after Wayne Bennett left. When Steve Price was appointed the Dragons coach in 2012 many felt that he was already a dead man walking.
When Wayne Bennett left he left behind a team that needed a complete rebuild. Through retirements, taking a few players with him here and there, and just general poor recruiting in the years after their Premiership win in 2010, the Dragons had ended up with an average side that was still trying hard to punch above its weight.
In stepped Price, a bloke looking to establish himself as a coach in the toughest Rugby League competition in the world. It should have been a good club to take over, but he didn’t get a great deal of help from the clubs management.
In recent years the Dragons big name recruits have included Josh Dugan, who was on the scrap heap and looking for any club to join after being sacked by the Canberra Raiders, Gareth Widdop who has been a great signing to be fair, and Benji Marshall who has only recently switched back to Rugby Union and was paid a lot of money to join the Dragons.
Outside of those three players, Two of which they picked up under less than idea circumstances, the Dragons recruitment has been very, very ordinary.
Dragons CEO Peter Doust has been under pressure for a long time from the supporter base. Even before the signing of Wayne Bennett, Doust was under fire for coaching appointments and player recruitment. Signing Bennett took the pressure off, but it has returned as strong as ever as supporters of the club question why everyone else seems to need to change except Doust.
The question that needs to be asked is this. Did Steve Price get the support he needed from his front office to have any chance at being a success? I don’t think he did. I think the club dragged its feet on recruitment for way too long and that Price was on a hiding to nothing.
Did Price make a few questionable calls himself? Sure. However when I look at the lineup he had to work with and the number of times I can understand why he was desperate to try out some of the things he did. He didn’t have much to work with.
Paul McGregor now steps in as the interim coach which in itself is a strange decision. He will now be asked to coach the side for the rest of the season, or until someone else steps in to take over on a full time basis. That is a far from ideal situation for anyone involved with the club.
My guess is that Tim Sheens will end up coaching the Dragons. There has been talk that Nathan Brown, who will return from Super League at seasons end, will take over the club, but I don’t even think Peter Doust is that stupid.
Who ever takes over as the next Dragons coach needs to hope that the clubs management gives them a bit more support. That they don’t walk into the role as a dead man walking. That the player recruitment has a little more direction and that if things don’t work out, its not their head thats first on the chopping block but the blokes up stairs.