SEASON REVIEW | St George-Illawarra Dragons

When all was said and done, Dragons' coach Mat Head rapt his Intrust Super Premiership NSW chargers, "satisfied" with what his side had achieved throughout their 2018 campaign.

Finishing the regular season in second place, the Dragons fell one game shy of a Grand Final appearance – a late flurry of points in the side's 28-26 Preliminary Final loss to the Bulldogs was not enough to see Head's men into the 'big dance'.

Touted by good judges as premiership contenders before a ball was kicked this year, the 2018 season saw veteran No.7 Darren Nicholls make a move from the eventual-minor premiers Panthers to the Dragons – and the 2017 Chairman's Medallist's influence didn't go unnoticed.

Reece Robson made his NRL debut in Round 9 of the Telstra Premiership, versus the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park
Reece Robson made his NRL debut in Round 9 of the Telstra Premiership, versus the Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park ©NRLPhotos

Supported by exciting young talents Jai Field and Reece Robson, captain Nicholls and his Dragons made their run deep into the finals, and very nearly earned a chance to replicate their 2016 premiership success.

But such is the nature of the second-tier competition, many of the Dragons' ISP-regulars had turned out for the club's NRL outfit against South Sydney in a Semi-Final clash the weekend of the ISP Preliminary Finals – a big factor in the side's eventual demise.

The Key Number

251

The Dragons made more errors (251) than any other team in the 2018 season and it was ill-discipline which proved their downfall in their eventual exit from the competition.

Head's men made 10 errors in the Preliminary Final loss to the Bulldogs, and conceded 10 penalties on the same night.

In the end, the Dragons' errors caught up with them – they were forced to make 60 more tackles than the Bulldogs, and missed a whopping 48 tackles in the eventual two-point loss.

The Rising Star

Carrying a heavier frame in 2018, Jai Field showed his best this season and was dangerous with every carry.

Simply Their Best: Jai Field starred for the Dragons throughout all of the 2018 ISP season
Simply Their Best: Jai Field starred for the Dragons throughout all of the 2018 ISP season ©NRLPhotos

Playing between fullback and five-eighth, Field scored 11 tries and laid on 12 others, while also improving on his work in defence.

Despite making his NRL debut in 2017, Field is still very much an untried commodity at the first-grade level – but again, he will be looking to change that in 2019.

How It Will Be Remembered

The Dragons were close, but not close enough, when it came to mixing it with the very best in the 2018 Intrust Super Premiership NSW.

Despite the Finals Week Three exit, Mat Head again proved himself as an elite transition coach, blooding players from the Jersey Flegg Cup system into the ISP, whilst also paving the way for his state cup players to move onto bigger and bigger things in the NRL.

Many would expect the Dragons to again figure in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW finals series next year, with those in the Red V hoping to go one – if not, two better – in 2019.