Anthony Griffin saw a mix of "brilliance" and "inexperience" from his young spine in Saturday's 38-26 loss to the Cowboys and hopes they will keep evolving.
Fullback Tyrell Sloan, five-eighth Talatau Amone and hooker Jayden Sullivan, all aged 19, put on an attacking show to propel the Dragons to a 20-10 half-time lead at Rockhampton's Browne Park.
The trio, who played together as juniors in Illawarra's 2019 SG Ball premiership win, demonstrated a shared connection as they linked up to create the team's opening try to centre Zac Lomax.
Sullivan, usually a halfback, grabbed a four-pointer from dummy-half before Amone kicked to assist Sloan on the stroke of the break.
"They were terrific. You see their natural ability and today will help them long-term," coach Griffin said post-match.
Match Highlights: Dragons v Cowboys
"They came up with - obviously with inexperience - a couple of plays that probably weren't the right plays at the right time, but you also saw their natural ability and their brilliance.
"As much as that hurts today it's a great experience for them and they'll learn from that."
It's been a rapid rise for the youngsters, especially Amone and Sloan who played in this year's under-19s SG Ball grand final loss.
The green shoots of youth aside, Griffin was disappointed with the Dragons now not even a mathematical chance of making the playoffs.
They sat inside the top eight going into the round 17 bye but have lost the following seven games to slip to 12th place.
Dragons fans should be salivating over this try conjured by two youngsters
North Queensland piled on four tries in 13 minutes to begin the second half and St George Illawarra never recovered.
"We needed to get that today. At half-time we were looking okay but clearly, we threw that one away," Griffin said.
"We had I think the first five or six minutes of possession down that end [to begin the second half]. I think we gave away an intercept on the last play [leading to Ben Hampton's try].
"They put together some decent attack coming out of their own end. But for a couple of sets there, we were really poor and that paid.
"In the end, there wasn't too much in it: a couple of intercepts to them and that period where I think they got three tries.
"And unfortunately, that's killed us off."