NRL Round 1 predicted teams: St George Illawarra Dragons – Flanagan making changes to rekindle club’s lost fire
As part of a series profiling the expected Round 1 sides for all 17 NRL clubs in 2024, it’s time to check in with Shane Flanagan’s rebuild at the Dragons.
Several spots are up for grabs at St George Illawarra heading into Round 1 with key players eyeing off a change of positions.
Ben Hunt is locked in at halfback after Flanagan convinced him to stay after his attempts to get a release but very few other spots are set in stone.
The Dragons still have plenty of money to spend for the 2024 season and will have much more the following year but have thus far been unable to land a high-profile recruit.
Flanagan built his success at the Sharks on defence so fixing the Dragons’ tendency to leak points will be his first priority next season.
Zac Lomax has stated he’s keen to try his hand at five-eighth while Flanagan will also consider him at fullback while back-rower Jack Bird could be heading back to the centres after training there in the off-season.
Kyle Flanagan was purchased as a bench utility but will likely start at five-eighth following Junior Amone being stood down due to being found guilty of assault. Rabbitohs forward Hame Sele and Storm veteran Tom Eisenhuth will bolster the pack while former Matoons representative Corey Allan could be a handy acquisition out wide.
Warriors half Ronald Volkman has been added to the roster recently due to a lack of depth in the playmaking positions.
Amone avoided jail time after being found guilty of intimidation and assault occasioning actual bodily harm but his NRL contract is set to be deregistered.
His fellow young playmaker Jayden Sullivan has joined the Wests Tigers while the rest of the players who have left in the off-season were not regular starters.
Moses Mbye and Zane Musgrove are finishing their careers in the Super League while Billy Burns (Sharks), Jaiyden Hunt (Broncos), Nick Lui-Toso (Wests Tigers) and unsigned journeymen Tyrell Fuimaono and Tautau Moga have departed.
Key spots to unlock
Hunt and hooker Jacob Liddle will make up two spots in the spine but fullback and five-eighth need to be settled.
Kyle Flanagan is set to start the year alongside Hunt in the halves while Tyrell Sloan faces a fight to retain the No.1 jersey.
Sloan had way too many defensive lapses last year despite showing his line-breaking ability in attack and Lomax could get a chance in the trials to show he can handle fullback after spending the majority of his career at centre.
Cody Ramsey is likely to miss a second straight season due to the inflammatory bowel condition ulcerative colitis, but the club is hopeful he can revive his career in 2025.
The forward pack will be similar to last season with young guns Ryan and Toby Couchman, Viliami Fifita and Alec Tuitavake getting more game time as the season progresses.
Round 1 predicted team
1 Tyrell Sloan
2 Mikaele Ravalawa
3 Moses Suli
4 Zac Lomax
5 Corey Allan
6 Kyle Flanagan
7 Ben Hunt
8 Blake Lawrie
9 Jacob Liddle
10 Francis Molo
11 Jack Bird
12 Jaydn Su’A
13 Jack de Belin
14 Ronald Volkman
15 Toby Couchman
16 Tom Eisenhuth
17 Hame Sele
Other squad members: Talatau Amone (suspended), Cody Ramsey (unavailable due to illness), Michael Molo, Ben Murdoch-Masila, Paul Turner, Dan Russell, Ryan Couchman, Mat Feagai, Max Feagai, Viliami Fifita, Sione Finau, Savelio Tamale, Alec Tuitavake.