The Dragons may still be licking their wounds following their dramatic Four Nations snub this week but former St George great Mark Coyne believes a quiet off-season is exactly what is needed if they are to recover from their disappointing end to the year.
The 2010 premiers were the notable losers out of Monday’s Kangaroos announcement with only Newcastle-bound Darius Boyd making the 24-man squad, before Beau Scott was later included as a replacement for Glenn Stewart. It’s a dramatic fall from grace for the Dragons who had three players named this time last year and eight players involved in State of Origin only a few months back.
However, Coyne said the club’s Four Nations snubbing would only work in their favour next season and predicted the Dragons would be back to their dominant best in 2012.
“It’s a double-edge sword,” Coyne told NRL.com. “Obviously the players will be disappointed that they don’t have the representation that they had last year. I think anyone who has played for Australia and misses out on selection will feel pretty disappointed so from that point of view it will be tough for the individuals.
“But from the other point of view – looking ahead to next year – I don’t think it will be a bad thing. They got fairly fatigued towards the end of this year and I think that having a good break and a good off-season will help them enormously – particularly with the new coach. It will help the club.”
Coyne said that the Dragons’ sudden slump in the back-half of 2011 was a direct result of their increased workload. While Ben Creagh and Brett Morris are unavailable through injury, fellow Origin stars Jamie Soward, Dean Young and Trent Merrin all struggled to recapture their best form post-Origin as St George Illawarra won just four of their final 15 games to bow out in Week Two of the finals.
“There is no doubt fatigue played a big part,” Coyne said.
“They had to go to the World Club Challenge which meant there was a lot of travel early in the year. Also Wayne Bennett deciding to go probably played a role there too.
“I think there were a whole heap of things there that contributed to the Dragons fading away this year but already there will be two less things to contend with next year which will be the World Club Challenge and the end-of-season Kangaroos tour. They’ll be able to freshen.”
Asked how important it was for new head coach Steve Price to have a full squad available when the Dragons returned to training, Coyne said: “Any coach wants to start off with his full squad and Steve will be no different, but particularly in his maiden year.
“The good thing with Steve though is that he knows the players pretty well. He has been there for a lot of years at the Dragons and he coached a lot of those guys when they were young. I’m sure he is looking forward to having everyone available.”
Not surprisingly, Manly was rewarded for its grand final win over the Warriors this week with five players – including two debutantes in Daly Cherry-Evans and Tony Williams – earning Australian selection. Others set to make their Test debuts either in Newcastle next week or on the upcoming Four Nations tour to England and Wales include Corey Parker, Akuila Uate and Wests Tigers prop Keith Galloway who was among the form front-rowers of the Telstra Premiership before the Tigers’ shock loss to the Warriors three weeks ago.
Galloway said he was over the moon to be part of the Kangaroos squad.
“It’s a real big honour and I’m very happy to be there,” he said. “This will be the first time I’ve been in the Australian squad so being part of it will be unreal.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play for their country.”
Asked about his impressive 2011 season that also saw him make his NSW debut, Galloway said: “Personally I feel like it was one of my better years. I didn’t have any serious injuries this year and being a senior member of the team has helped me. I’ve probably played a few more minutes than in previous years.
“I’ve learnt a lot since I joined the Tigers and I’ve definitely grown as a footballer and a person.”