Dragons overhaul revealed after Gould’s club review
The Dragons' much-vaunted post 2019-season review has resulted in a massive eight staff changes - yet despite commencing pre-season training next week, they still have six spots on their playing roster to fill.
The two-month review and subsequent overhaul of the club's football operations was led by Phil Gould after the Dragons languished to a second-last finish position in 2019.
As expected, head coach Paul McGregor has survived the review and will remain at the helm of Saints in 2020.
The backroom staff changes include a vast array of support for McGregor going forward including a leadership guru, mediation expert, strength coach, physiotherapist and as revealed by The Daily Telegraph, new assistant coaches in Shane Flanagan and James Shepherd.
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In a statement on Friday morning, St George-Illawarra CEO Brian Johnston said the review was necessary after the club's woeful year and vowed the raft of changes would turn the club's fortunes around in 2020.
"Everyone at the Dragons were terribly dissatisfied with the club's 2019 season campaign which resulted in this wide-ranging internal and external review of the club's football department," Johnston said.
"The Dragons have made key structural changes to its coaching, performance and medical staff following the determination of a lack of experience within the wider group. This includes several new staff appointments to the football department.
"It was noted throughout the review that there needed to be a greater focus on club culture and leadership. In acknowledging this, the club have taken steps in this space in order to bring further accountability and discipline to the playing group.
"All of our stakeholders, including our partners, members and supporters can rest assured that the Dragons have not taken this process lightly and look forward to greater success in our upcoming campaign and beyond."
Adrian Jimenez will join the Dragons in 2020 as the NRL strength and conditioning coach from the Parramatta Eels.
Steve Dean has been promoted to lead NRL physiotherapist while former Sharks junior representative physio Davis Theobald will join the club as the rehab physiotherapist.
New South Wales State of Origin head physiotherapist Dan Lawson will also re-join the Dragons on a part-time basis.
The Dragons have engaged Gerard Murphy of Leadership by Design to aid a clearer focus in the culture and leadership space.
Murphy has worked in performance and team dynamics over the past two decades with AFL clubs Geelong, Richmond and Port Adelaide, both England rugby league and rugby union Test teams, the Great Britain Olympic team and English Premier League's West Ham United.
Saints have also engaged, mind and performance coach Matt Griggs - a former professional surfer who has worked alongside surfing world champions Mick Fanning and Stephanie Gilmore - will facilitate lessons on meditation, among other things.
The statement also revealed the Dragons have currently signed 24 players in their Top 30 ahead of the 2020 Telstra Premiership season, the minimum quota required by November 1.
It's believed the Dragons have little salary cap space to fill the six remaining spots - that is, unless they are able to release players contracted for next season including Euan Aitken, Matt Dufty or Luciano Leilua - as has been their intention.
"Our performances throughout the 2019 season were not demonstrative of this proud club, given also the successful season we produced 12 months prior," McGregor said.
"There are plenty of positives that have come from the review. We accept we didn't play to our potential as a team last season. The review has also provided everyone involved a chance to reflect and learn from the hardships of 2019.
"The amount of change implemented across the football department hasn't occurred for a very long time and will provide a positive new approach to the 2020 season.''