OPINION

Players must be on same page as Griffin for Dragons to fire

Anthony Griffin is the new Dragons coach and will take over next year on a two-year-deal. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images
Anthony Griffin is the new Dragons coach and will take over next year on a two-year-deal. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images

St George Illawarra has made its coaching choice - the key now is for the Dragons to unite behind Anthony Griffin and give him every chance of succeeding.

I've got to say I don't know too much about Griffin. But I think it's pretty clear by selecting him over Dean Young, that the club has made a conscious decision to go for an "outsider" rather than keep the appointment in-house.

On the surface at least, Griffin's credentials suggest he is capable of having some success. In the seven years he has coached at NRL level, his sides' have made the finals on six occasions.

When he joined the unemployment queue a few years back after being sacked by the Panthers, the side was running fourth at the time with only a handful of rounds to go before the finals so he has some runs on the board. But clearly, there are going to be greater challenges awaiting him at the Dragons than he would have previously faced when he was at the Brisbane Broncos and Penrith.

One of the biggest challenges will be getting consistency and value for money out of his halves Ben Hunt and Corey Norman. Given the sort of money they are on, he's going to need them performing at their optimum far more often than they have been.

There is also no doubt the Dragons need a far tougher defensive mentality as well if they are to become a genuine force in the NRL again. From all reports, Griffin is hard-nosed and will be a driver of that.

But the players have to want to buy into that mentality. You've only got to look at the problems Michael Maguire is having at the Wests Tigers to realise if the playing group as a whole is not on the same page as the coach and willing to make the sort of sacrifices that are necessary to rid themselves of their soft under-belly, there is going to be some drama.

Presumably, Griffin won't be shackled by the restraints Paul McGregor faced at the back-end of his tenure.

You can bet your life he'll be picking his team each week and not getting over-ruled by a selection committee and I'd be stunned if he is not having the major say in recruitment and retention. If you are going to hold the coach accountable for performance, that's the only way. Griffin, no doubt, has some roster issues to deal with but the Dragons have some quality juniors coming through and development is a strength of his from all reports.

He's got two years to make a real difference and I hope for the club's sake, he can turn things around. The Dragons is an iconic rugby league brand with a great history both at Kogarah and in Wollongong with the Steelers.

They have a huge following so it would be great for the game to see them up there challenging for a title again.

Knights break drought

Congratulations to the Newcastle Knights and their coach Adam O'Brien on finally breaking their finals drought.

As an outsider looking in, I'm just really happy for the rusted-on fans in Newcastle who support the club with such loyalty and in huge numbers through the good times and the bad.

There were some tough decisions made by their former coach Nathan Brown that has led to the club assembling a quality roster that has shown some really good signs under O'Brien. I'm not sure they are ready to challenge heavyweights like the Sydney Roosters, Melbourne and even Penrith just yet but with special players like Mitchell Pearce, like Kalyn Ponga, like David Klemmer and the Saifiti boys, you just never know.

Round 18 Predictions

TIGERS v RABBITOHS

Souths missed the class of Latrell Mitchell against Melbourne but were still highly competitive and are still playing for a top-four spot. Have too many weapons for the Tigers.

BULLDOGS v SEA EAGLES

You can make excuses for Manly but for mine, they have been a big disappointment this season with the quality of players they still have available. They had no right to lose last weekend and need to make amends here.

PANTHERS v EELS

This will be a real bruising, physical game against two traditional rivals that don't like each other. The Eels are the only side to beat Penrith this season and will no doubt come at them with power and aggression up the middle. The Panthers just, in a low-scoring thriller.

DRAGONS v RAIDERS

The Raiders are specials here. Nothing has changed for the Dragons in losing two games they should definitely have won over the past couple of weeks.

TITANS v BRONCOS

I'm waiting for the Broncos to just explode and play well for 80 minutes and win but I'm not holding my breath. They are just too patchy and brittle when things don't go their way, while the Titans are showing improvement every week and should get the job done at home.

ROOSTERS v KNIGHTS

The Roosters are building nicely and there is no Ponga for the Knights so it's impossible to find an upset in this one.

STORM v COWBOYS

It is only on the rarest of occasions Melbourne loses a game they are expected to win and this one against the Cowboys won't be one of them. They'll just be too classy and too professional, even without fullback linchpin Ryan Papenhuyzen.

SHARKS v WARRIORS

No Graham, no Townsend for the Sharks and I've been more impressed over the past month with the Warriors, who showed plenty of ticker last weekend to take the Eels to the wire. I'm tipping an upset in this one.