It has been an eventful first four months for me here at the Dragons and although the learning curve has been steep, my focus remains on getting this club back into the top echelons of the NRL both on and off the field.
Last week the club parted ways with Paul McGregor who served the club in a variety of roles over a 25-year period. I am very proud of how the club handled the situation and cannot speak more highly of Paul in the way that he carried himself throughout.
His passion, work ethic, humility and generosity was exceptional. It was great to see the players perform as they did against the Eels and send Paul off in the manner he deserved. We wish all the best to Paul and his family for the future and know that he will always be part of the St George Illawarra Dragons family.
We welcome Dean Young in an interim capacity for the remainder of the season and after the win against the Broncos last Friday, we believe we will see more positive things from the team under his direction.
We now turn our focus to the appointment of our next head coach; the most important decision the club has made in recent times. There needs to be a level of confidentiality with a recruitment process such as this, but I can tell you that the key elements we are looking for in our next head coach are:
1. Strong discipline (needed for ongoing improvement);
2. Ability to develop young players (leverage our strength as a development club);
3. Defensively minded (defence is the bedrock of all successful teams); and
4. Comes from a culture of success (knows how to win).
Across the club we have undergone an in-depth strategic planning process which is nearing completion. We now have a set of overarching goals for the business and numerous actions that need to be undertaken in order to achieve them. The speed at which these actions can occur varies, but I hope everyone will start seeing improvements in all areas shortly. Every step is being measured and reviewed along the way to ensure that we are establishing a culture of continued improvement.
There are some good people doing great work and I believe with the right direction and leadership we can make some great leaps in the not-too-distant future.
The last two months have been full of highs and lows. The team has shown that at their best they can compete with any team in the competition. However, their struggle to play at their best for a full 80 minutes continues to be their downfall at times.
It's worth noting that contrary to media reports Jason Saab has not been granted a release at the end of the season, although we will consider allowing him to depart on compassionate grounds if we were to receive a commensurate compensation in the form of a player and/or cash consideration.
We wish Euan Aitken all the best as he makes his way to the New Zealand Warriors in 2021. Euan has been a great servant of the club and I am sure he will be a valuable addition to the Warriors' roster.
Earlier this week, we confirmed that Mathew and Max Feagai have extended their time with the Dragons for a further season (until 2022) and have been promoted to the club's top squad as of next season. We look forward to announcing the re-signing of more of our other brightest young talent in the coming weeks.
Red V Membership
I wish to thank the thousands of members who chose to keep their membership with the club throughout the 2020 season. Whether it was in full or reverting to a non-match access membership level, every bit of support helps the club be better on and off the field.
To those members who have been able to attend our home matches – thank you. Although the environment is not what any of us are used to, your voices and support is felt and appreciated by the boys on the field.
With the return of crowds to games it has been great to see some of our corporate partners enjoying the Dragons' game day hospitality. The support of our partners and their patience with the new game day rules and ticketing process are very much appreciated. We look forward to welcoming our partners to our remaining home games.
Our major partner St.George Bank recently conducted their Footy Grants program again. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, St.George were able to reposition the existing program from helping the footy community to play to helping them survive financially. Additionally, St.George doubled its commitment from last year, increasing the funding pool to $200,000, in their efforts to galvanise our grassroots communities. It is a great program and another reason why we are proud of our association with St.George Bank.
NRL Women's Premiership
Our NRLW program will begin in late-August with an eye towards Round 1, which is again set down for the first week of the NRL finals. All NRLW games will be played before NRL matches with the grand final to be played prior to the NRL grand final. Our Dragons squad of 22 players is being put together and will be finalised in the coming weeks. The NRLW team will be placed under Apollo protocols by the NRL for the duration of the competition.
I wanted to make mention of the fantastic efforts of our staff around the recent Indigenous Round, in particular, to their work on the production of our fantastic Indigenous jersey that I believe was the best of any club.
Finally, thanks to everyone for your continued support of the club. Please take care of yourselves and those around you as we continue to make our way through these challenging times.
CEO - St George Illawarra Dragons