24/04/2024

Dragons girls enjoying preseason training. Photo: dragons.com.au

After a year-long wait, the Dragons are aiming to put the winless season of 2020 behind them, as they rebuild under former-premiership winner Jamie Soward.

After a year-long wait, the Dragons are aiming to put the winless season of 2020 behind them, as they rebuild under former-premiership winner Jamie Soward.

Soward has been appointed as the coach for the upcoming season and is in a difficult position with the club losing 10 players, including arguably their best player – 2019 Dally M NRLW Player of the year Jessica Sergis.

Last year

The Dragons massively under-performed in the 2020 season, considering the quality of players spread across the field.

After falling short in the 2019 grand final, there was plenty of expectations placed on this talented side, they came up well short and struggled to score tries whilst having a fairly poor defence.

St George only managed four tries in the three games, the spine failed to deliver and the chemistry from the 2019 season seemingly faded out.

Although the side struggled on paper, two players stood out and entered the conversation amongst the best players in the NRLW.

Papa New Guinean forward, Elsie Albert made her NRLW debut in 2020 and immediately made an impact.

The imposing prop finished 12th in average run metres (104)  and sixth in post-contact metres (139.9), as the opposing sides struggled to contain her impact.

Albert shined in her first professional season and was appointed the captain of her national side as they played in their first official game against England.

Jessica Sergis was arguably the best player for the Dragons in 2020, building on the back of her monumental 2019 outing.

Although the side struggled to get over the line, Sergis continued to make her presence felt in other areas of the game.

Her running game saw her finish in seventh in average run metres (117.9) and fourth in average post-contact metres (46).

The Jillaroo and NSW representative showed her class in 2020 and was continually one of the best players on the field, her departure for the Dragons could prove to be a bigger obstacle to overcome than first thought.

Squad Changes 

Ins:

Tegan Berry (Helensburgh Tiger Lillies), Quincy Dodd (Sydney Roosters), Keele Browne (Mounties), Madison Bartlett (New Zealand Warriors), Tegan Dymock (Cronulla Sharks), Shellie Long (Burleigh Bears), Aliti Namoce-Sagano (Sydney Roosters), Rachael Pearson (Helensburgh Tiger Lillies), Natassja Purontakanen (Valley Diehards), Page McGregor (North Sydney Bears), Renee Targett (North Sydney Bears), Chantel Tugara (Corrimal Cougars), Janelle Williams (Mounties)

Outs:

Jessica Sergis (Sydney Roosters), Isabelle Kelly (Sydney Roosters), Tiana Pentani (Parramatta Eels), Jade Etherden, Aaliyah Fasavalu-Fa’amausili, Steph Hancock (Gold Coast Titans), Rikeya Horne, Ellie Johnston (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Isabelle Kelly (Central Coast Roosters), Mahalia Murphy (Rugby Union)

Track watch

Elsie Albert has looked in world-class shape during pre-season training, not only has the prop gained muscle but she has also added more agility and pace.

Elsie Albert in pre-season training (Photo/@NRL_Dragons)

With this combination, she will firmly be in the conversation as one of the most damaging forwards in the game as she looks to take her talent to the next level in 2021.

With incumbent hooker, Keely Davis looking sharp in her pre-season, her ability to give Albert precise balls will make it even easier for her to make ground on opposing defences.

Teenage sensation Jamie Chapman has started off her campaign with a double in the All-star game, helping the Indigenous Women’s All-Stars to a 10-point victory over the Maori Women’s All-Stars.

Chapman played well above her age, showing maturity and natural ability, scoring an amazing break away try before neatly going over for her second within a matter of minutes.

With the departure of Sergis in the backline, the Dragons should feel confident with a player Chapman’s ability to replace her impact and talent in the squad.

Coach Soward does have one potential positional issue within his side, with both Taliah Fuimano and Rachel Pearson looking likely to be the halves pairing without playing a NRLW game yet in their career.

In a side with a solid hooker rotation, it is crucial that the pair gets clicking early on, the Dragons problems in the halves were highlighted last season as they struggled to find chemistry and spread the ball in an efficient manner.

The rookie duo have a lot of pressure weighing on their play together and will know if they don’t perform early on, it could spell the end of their partnerships and potentially their spot in the side going forward.

What to expect

It may be tough to see the Dragons competing with the elite of the competition from the first game, mainly due to the amount of squad turnover and the long layoff since their last competitive game.

However, this team is full of talented players and has plenty of women with chips on their shoulders as they look to make their mark in their debut season or look for redemption as their career hangs in the balance.

The main area that fans should expect to see improvement from is the try-scoring department.

With the signing of experienced hooker Quincy Dodd and a backline that is stacked with representative players, the Dragons could boast one of the most lethal attacks in the competition.

Dodd finished 2020 with three tries (T-second in NRLW) and shared hooker duties with Keely Davis in Origin.

With Dodd, Emma Tonegato and a new-look backline, if the halves combination can click it should be an enjoyable year for the Red V faithful.

Soward’s experience as a premiership winning half will undoubtedly help the halves settle in and should add a lot of consistency in the starting lineup which will be key in their push for finals.

It’s a big year for?

After steering NSW Women’s Premiership side Helensburgh to an unlikely finals appearance, Rachael Pearson was swiftly recruited by Soward as he looked to solidify his halfback for the upcoming season.

Pearson, who joined the club with plenty of praise, now has the daunting task of leading the Dragons throughout the 2021 season.

The talented halfback will be under pressure from the first game, her partnership with Fuimano could be a positive or negative difference depending on their output.

Pearson has proved her quality and experience in the lower-leagues of women’s rugby league, however in her debut season of NRLW, she will face the biggest test of her career.

She has remained healthy since her foot injury in 2017 and will need to maintain this in order for her and the club to enjoy a successful season.

Along with Pearson, the dummy-half duties that will be shared by Dodd and Davis will arguably the biggest factor in leading the attack alongside Pearson.

The duo are in for a massive year, as two of the more experienced hookers in the NRLW, they present an element of maturity and consistency that is sure to rub off on the near 12 debutants for the Dragons.

Predicted round one lineup

Ladder range

3rd-4th

There is plenty of upside in this Dragons side, however considering the amount of new faces in key positions, a finish in the top-four seems very likely.

If the new signings and coach Soward can get it going early, the Dragons will be a side that no one will want to face.

A side that is full of talent in all positions like the Dragons is sure to have a much better season than their winless season in 2020.

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