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Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell.

There can be no question 2019 was an unmitigated disaster for the Red V. More than a few pundits had them finishing in the top eight in pre-season tipping, but from the time Origin lock Jack De Belin was stood down in February, little went right for Paul McGregor's men.

The loss of skipper Gareth Widdop with a serious shoulder injury in round three was another huge blow and did little to settle what the club's best spine looked like, with Matt Dufty shuffled in and out, recruit Corey Norman shifted around and plenty of youngsters blooded along the way.

The Dragons were hit hard by Origin selection as the star-studded forward pack provided Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan and Tariq Sims to the Blues while Norman and Ben Hunt each appeared for Queensland.

Some early wins kept them in the finals hunt until about round 16 but they fell away badly to finish just one spot above the wooden spoon.

Home & Away record

4-8 at home, 4-8 away

The Dragons recovered from two losses to start the year (one home and one away) to win four straight games (two away then two at home).

A five-game losing streak between rounds 7-11 was followed by two wins in three weeks from rounds 13-15 but another five-game losing run put paid to any hopes of a top-eight berth.

The Dragons' record against eventual top-eight teams was an abysmal 2-11, with Brisbane (round 3) and Manly (round 6) the only two heavyweights they managed to knock off in 2019.

Their other wins were against Newcastle, North Queensland, the Bulldogs twice and the Titans twice.

Post-contact metres

Kangaroos prop Paul Vaughan was the Dragons' best when it came to pushing past the initial contact, leading the club for PCM per game (45m, with Jackson Ford and Tariq Sims both at 34m per game) and for the season (Euan Aitken 801m was next best).

Tyson Frizell bent the line the most on a per-run basis at 3.21 PCM per carry, ahead of Vaughan (3.06) and Luciano Leilua (2.82).

The best in the NRL in these categories made well over 50 PCM per game and 3.6m per carry, meaning Dragons players were well behind the league leaders in this area.

Tries scored by channel

The Dragons were very right-side heavy with their attack in 2019, scoring 38 tries on the centre-right (19) and right edge (19) channels. A further 17 came through the middle, with just six scored through the centre-left and 10 on the left flank.

The top tryscorer was right-side winger Mikaela Ravalawa with 11, while halfback Ben Hunt was next with eight and operated predominantly on the right edge.

Euan Aitken (six), Zac Lomax (five) and Luciano Leilua (three) also enjoyed attacking on the right side.

Tries conceded by channel

As good as they were in attack, it was the Red V right side that proved the leakiest in defence, with the 28 tries that came via the right flank their worst defensive channel for the season. There were 15 more scored centre-right, although the left edge had its issues with 22 on the left flank, nine in the centre-left channel and a worrying 27 coming through the middle as well.

Their total of 43 tries conceded on the right side was the worst right side record of any club and second worst for either side of the field behind the 48 the Titans conceded on the left.

Tries conceded from penalties

Despite conceding the second-fewest penalties of any club with 139, the Dragons still conceded the fourth-most tries in the set after a penalty, with 28. Wooden spooners Gold Coast had the most with 43 while the other two clubs to concede more tries after penalties – Penrith (30) and Newcastle (29) – were the two most-penalised clubs in 2019.

It wasn't the Red V's biggest problem in 2019 but a lack of resilience in the face of those instances of in-game adversity was certainly an area that will require more discipline in 2020.

Metres gained from offloads

Offloading isn't a pre-requisite for success but some teams certainly do it better than others. The Dragons fell neatly mid-table in this category in 2019, making the ninth-most total offloads (230), and gaining the eighth-most metres from offloads overall with 65 metres per game gained.

They were also eighth-best at metres gained per offload, at 6.8 metres gained per pass.

Tim Lafai (245 run metres) and, perhaps surprisingly, Luciano Leilua (168 run metres) profited most as players receiving the offloads while Cam McInnes (77 metres gained at just four metres per pass) and Gareth Widdop (75 metres gained at 15 metres per pass) added the most value from their offloads.

Goalkicking accuracy

Goalkicking wasn't a worry for the Red V in 2019, with a club season success rate of just over 80% good enough for sixth-best in the NRL. When first-choice kicker Widdop was on, he slotted them at just over 88%.

Goalkicking cost the Dragons no results in 2019, and they would have finished 15th under a hypothetical ladder where they kicked at 100% and also under one where all teams kicked at 100%.

When Widdop was unavailable, Jai Field kicked a perfect seven from seven while Corey Norman slotted nine from 11. Zac Lomax went close to 80% with his 15 goals from 19 attempts while Lafai is probably the last cab off the rank from those names to replace Widdop next year after kicking just 60% (nine from 15) in 2019.

Seven-tackle sets conceded from kicks

The Dragons' three main general player kickers, Gareth Widdop, Ben Hunt and Corey Norman, had serious trouble getting short kicks to sit in the in-goal in 2019.

Hunt gave up nine seven-tackle restarts with kicks in 2019 (sixth-most in NRL), with Norman conceding seven (equal eighth most) and Widdop five, with four other Dragons contributing one each.

All up their 25 seven-tackle restarts from kicks was the worst record of any team, with Brisbane and Melbourne each conceding 24.

Possession percentage

Possession is the key to winning any rugby league game and St George Illawarra's 48.8% share of the ball across 2019 was not good enough.

Even with a watertight defence, it's very hard to win games without a close to even share of the ball. Averaged out over a long season, anything much under a 50% share of the ball will make life very tough.

Seven of the top nine teams for possession finished in the finals, while of the six teams who held below 50% of the ball, just one made the finals. That happened to be premiers the Roosters, who consistently made a big statement with their defence.

Down the bottom, the Bulldogs (48.0%) and Knights (48.4%) gave themselves little chance to win on too many occasions and the Dragons were third-worst.

Penalties awarded

One quirk of the Dragons' season of struggles was a real difficulty earning penalties, finishing last for penalties awarded with just 131.

Part of that is the lack of possession because the vast majority of penalties are against the defensive side. Teams is possession generally draw penalties when they are winning the ruck and force opponents into tactics such as holding down, crowding, lying in the ruck and putting hands on the ball.

The lack of penalties awarded to the Red V points to a general struggle to create and build momentum through their sets of six to force opponents into defensive infringements.

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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