After a shaky start, they pulled together some form in the early mid-season period stringing together some consecutive wins before they fell off in the second half of the season and dropped out of genuine top-eight contention.
In the end, though, they were only two wins away from scraping into finals footy, so the off-field drama gives a particularly harsh patina to a decidedly average season.
They ended up with a perfectly middling 2022, managing an even split of wins and losses. They would have hoped for a smooth lead-in to this season. Alas, ‘twas not to be. The off-field drama has continued after last season. Francis Molo, former Broncos star, who copped a four-week suspension for a sickening coathanger towards the end of last season, pleaded guilty to a domestic violence charge.
There were also late-night hotel shenanigans between two Dragons players after the massive loss to the Rabbitohs in the charity shield, and they are coming into the first week of 2023 with a cloud hanging over the future of coach Anthony Griffin.
How can they improve
Suggestions have been made that they need a big overhaul to become competitive again. Many blame the poisonous atmosphere and culture at the club and alternatively suggest a change in the coaching staff and roster.
One table they topped last year was missed tackles, so shoring up the defence and rushing up less could see them turn tight losses into tight wins.
The very public internal issues they have had are unlikely to make the organisation very alluring to talent. Their best bet for improvement seems to be just shutting the whole thing down and starting again. They could be the Southern NSW Dugongs.
Talatau Amone has been benched after being hit with a string of police charges. Using the league's 2019 no-fault stand-down rule, Amone won't be eligible to play. The Dragons have brought in Paul Turner to make up for the lack of depth in the halves caused by the absence of Amone and Jayden Sullivan being out with a hamstring injury.
IN: Paul Turner, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Zane Musgrove, Nick Lui-Toso
OUT: Josh McGuire, Tariq Sims, Jackson Ford, Jack Gosiewski, Poasa Faamausili, George Burgess.
The Dragons should be no slouch in their attack this season; with players in the backline having gained experience playing in the world cup for Samoa and Tonga, they should have a good shot at getting on top of teams both through the centre and out wide. Add to this the talent of Ben Hunt at half-back making the decisions, and there are definitely the ingredients for something special.
While a great playmaker and in attack, Hunt also topped last season's missed tackle count, and with a few other players in the top 50 of 2022, they really need to work on defensive discipline this season.
Amone being out could work for them defensively, as he was also guilty of letting too many through last year. Where they excel in attack also seems to be where the most holes are opening up for the opposition.
They also only have one specialist dummy half after the retirement of Andrew McCullough in Jacob Liddle, which could cause problems through injury and probably means they need to start training up another in the roster as a backup.
Sloan has reportedly had a great pre-season that promises this could be his year…was also something that could have been written before last season.
Sloan was overlooked for much of last season after a poor showing in the wet three games in and a subsequent falling out with coach Anthony Griffin.
That said, luck has its part to play and the work he has allegedly been putting in preseason means he will be in the best position to take full advantage of any luck that comes his way.
They are truly a wildcard, and hard and fast predictions are tricky with the massive gap between their great potential and what they have recently been able to execute, not to mention the effect of ongoing off-field controversy.
They were only two wins from the top eight at the end of last season, even with all of the chaos, and they can probably scrape into that eight if a few more things go right for them both on and off the pitch.
If they can settle the coaching controversy and fortify their discipline in defence, they probably have a chance of finishing at least two spots higher on the table.
If they can not keep their discipline in the hotel rooms as well, then it is probably evidence of a more ingrained issue that needs a more thorough turnover on the roster and management before the finals start looking viable.
Ladder position: 11th
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