17/04/2024

The Dragons will be looking to do one better this season by winning a NRLW premiership (Picture: NRL/Website, Design by Will Cuckson)

The St. George Illawarra Dragons finished second-best in the Minor Premiership stakes to go into the Grand Final last season. They look to go one better this season after losing the last game of the year to the Sydney Roosters.

The 2021 season was a largely successful one for the Dragons, finishing second to the Brisbane Broncos on the ladder on point difference, the Broncos with a +14 superior differential. However, they made their second Grand Final, which they lost to the Sydney Roosters, 16-4.

Last year

The Dragons started last season strong, as they held off the new team in the Gold Coast Titans, 20-12.

In a rain-drenched Round 2, Rachael Pearson scored all 10 of the Dragons’ points, as they ran out 10-0 winners over the Parramatta Eels.

In the third round, the Dragons suffered their first loss of the season, to the 3-time defending NRLW champions, the Brisbane Broncos, 18-22.

However, they put this loss behind them, and put the Knights to the sword in Round 4, defeating them 4-40.

Then, heading into the final round, the Dragons had a chance to win the Minor Premiership at home when they played the Sydney Roosters, knowing a win for them and results going their way elsewhere would mean a first-ever Minor Premiership.

The Dragons won 16-10 over the Roosters; however, after the Broncos’ 38-4 demolition of the Eels, the team from Brisbane won the Minor Premiership on points-differential, by +14.

The Dragons defeated the Titans in the semi-finals 24-18 to set up a Grand Final matchup against the Sydney Roosters, who snuck into the finals after finishing fourth in the regular season.

The Dragons took a 4-0 lead into halftime in the decider, before a surging second half effort from the Roosters saw them score 16 unanswered points to win the Grand Final 16-4.

Despite the Grand Final heartbreak, six Dragons were named in the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) ‘Dream Team’; Emma Tonegato, Jaime Chapman, Teagan Berry, Taliah Fuimaono, Pearson and Elsie Albert.

Further individual honours followed for the Dragons, with Tonegato winning the Dally M Medal for Player of the Year, along with the Broncos’ Millie Boyle.

Six Dragons played State of Origin last season, all for the New South Wales Blues.

Kezie Apps captained the New South Wales Blues, alongside her club teammates Tonegato, Pearson, Keeley Davis, Shaylee Bent and Quincy Dodd. Tonegato and Pearson both made their State of Origin debuts last season.

Additionally, Dragons’ coach Jamie Soward was named Coach of the Year.

The Squad

Ins: Zali Hopkins (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Tara McGrath-West (North Sydney Bears), Salma Nour (St Mary’s Saints), Andie Robinson (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Monalisa Soliola (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Cassie Staples (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Shontelle Stowers (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks)

Outs:Madison Bartlett (Gold Coast Titans), Jaime Chapman (Brisbane Broncos), Kody House (retirement), Fatafehi Hanisi (injured)

Track watch

The Dragons have signed a lot of talent from the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in NSW Women’s Premiership who will be looking to make their mark.

After winning a Commonwealth Games silver medal in 2018, Cassie Staples will be making her NRLW debut after representing Australia in Rugby Sevens.

She will debut alongside fellow teammates Tonegato and Page McGregor.

Andie Robinson, Monalisa Soliola and Tara McGrath-West will also make their NRLW debuts this season. Robinson will fill the position left vacant on the wing by the departure of last season’s competition’s top try scorer, Madison Bartlett.

Keele Browne will have to replaces, in the centres, rising star Jaime Chapman, who signed with the Broncos.

Due to the high rate of turnover this season, the Dragons will be hoping that their chemistry is on song ahead of the season.

What to expect

For the Dragons, the expectation this season will be to continue their charge, with the hope of going one better in the season overall.

They will be hoping Albert and Tonegato can continue to give them some forward momentum this season. Tonegato led the way with the most runs and run metres last season and will hope to build on that.

The Dragons scored the second most points and tries last season, behind the Broncos. Furthermore, they also had the second-best possession and set completion rates. The Dragons utilise decoy runners more than any other side, so that will be useful for them again this season.

With one of the hardest running and defensively aggressive teams in the competition, their intensity will be there to see again this season as they look to break their trophy drought.

With a host of new players, along with a strong core of the team who made it to the Grand Final last season, they will be looking to prove themselves as one of the contenders once again.

The Grand Final rematch against the Sydney Roosters in Round 3, the first match at the brand-new Allianz Stadium, will be a real test for the Dragons.

That match will showcase their Minor Premiership and Grand Final potential, as they look to break the drought this season.

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It’s a big year for

It is a big year for Emma Tonegato, on the back of a Dally M winning season.

She will be hoping to lead the Dragons once again from the back, in offence and defence, setting up her teammates for a big season ahead. If she can continue last season’s form, she can get her forwards on the front foot from kick returns.

Furthermore, her attacking and defensive prowess will help her side control more matches, as she will be hoping to save and set up more tries to lead her team to glory this season.

Round 1 Team:

1. Emma Tonegato
2. Teagan Berry
3. Keele Browne
4. Page McGregor
5. Andie Robinson
6. Taliah Fuimaono
7. Rachael Pearson
8. Elsie Albert
9. Keeley Davis
10. Tegan Dymock
11. Kezie Apps
12. Shaylee Bent
13. Holli Wheeler
Interchange:
14. Quincy Dodd
15. Talei Holmes
16. Monalisa Soliola
17. Tara McGrath-West

Ladder range

First-Second

The Dragons will look to impress yet again this season and make a charge towards all the silverware.

They have retained a strong core of their squad, including many of their standout players from last season. The addition of quality options across the park will aid them, despite losing Bartlett and Chapman.

Coach Jamie Soward will be hoping to get his side firing, with Dally M Medal winner Emma Tonegato the one hoping to lead the Dragons to glory. However, they will have strong competition, particularly from the defending Minor Premiers, the Broncos, and the defending Premiers, the Roosters.

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