St George Illawarra has only made the finals twice since 2012, and new coach Anthony Griffin knows he needs more from his star players.
New St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin has challenged the Dragons’ senior players to aim up after failing to lead the famous club to success in recent seasons.
The Dragons have only made the finals twice since 2012, largely on the back of substandard performances from the club’s established players.
Griffin has only been in the St George Illawarra coaching job for just over a month, but he understands the importance of his senior stars stepping up.
“A few of them have got to find a little bit more,” Griffin said.
“Tariq Sims, Paul Vaughan and those types of guys have been good (this pre-season).
“Corey Norman has also been really good, which they need to be because the last couple of years haven’t been where the club obviously wants to be.
“That is the important thing about the training before Christmas, both physically and skill wise.”
Outside of senior players like Vaughan, Norman, Sims and Ben Hunt, the Dragons possess a relatively young squad.
It’s why Griffin hired experienced assistant coaches Matthew Elliott and Peter Gentle to assist with the players’ development.
“I think the playing group needs that – it is not a player-driven group at the moment,” he said.
“So, we need a really experienced coaching staff to help them learn and guide them through the next 18 months.
“Matthew and Peter are both experienced coaches in their own right.
“They have both been around for a long time, so I thought it was important that we got as much experience in here as we could.”
Off the field, Griffin declared that Jack de Belin’s ongoing sexual assault trial wouldn’t be a distraction for the Dragons.
De Belin will face a second trial in Sydney next year, starting on April 12 at Sydney’s Downing Centre for three weeks.
It means the former Origin forward could miss the majority of the 2021 season.
Griffin believes the Dragons can move on in de Belin’s absence, confirming reports that the club has salary cap space to pursue another forward following the departures of Tyson Frizell and James Graham.
“We have still got some capacity salary cap wise, and we will fill it once we think we are going to add to our list,” he said.
“But it (de Belin’s case) doesn’t impact me at all, and I don’t think it will impact the club.
“Jack has been out of the game for two years now, so it is something for Jack now, and it is a legal process that I have got no control over and the club hasn’t got any control over.
“So, we’ll just sit back and watch that and see what happens, but for me it has got no issue on how I operate or what I do.
“I get the feeling through the club that everyone obviously knows Jack and wish him well with what happens in the future, but in the end he has got a legal issue that he has got to deal with and the courts will take care of that.”
Phil Gould’s review of the Dragons in 2019 led to the ex-player turned Channel 9 commentator saying that the club had issues that would struggle to be fixed within 12 months.
Griffin acknowledges that the club has areas to amend and improve, but he sees some positivity on the horizon.
“They are actually a little bit ahead of where I thought they’d be in a number of ways,” he said.
“But it is a club that finished bottom four two years in a row, so there are obviously a lot of things that need to be better.
“That just doesn’t come down to the coach.
“That is the first person clubs change when clubs aren’t going well, but it comes down to a whole lot of things across the whole club.
“I’ve only been here a month on the field, so I don’t have all the answers yet, but there are a lot of things that we have to improve on to get back into the fight to try and win a competition.
“But my first impressions are that it is a really good club and really good people who are desperate to do well.”
Griffin hasn’t coached in the NRL since parting ways with Penrith in 2018, so he is rapt to be back on the big stage.
“It is nice being out on the field again and coaching,” he said.
“As I said when I got the job, I was always confident that I’d get back into a position like this.
“It is great to be coaching a club like the Dragons.”