In a surprise move, the St George Illawarra Dragons have extended the contract of head coach Anthony Griffin until at least of the end of the 2023 NRL season.
At a Dragons board meeting this week, the club decided to trigger the clause in the club’s favour to extend Griffin’s deal for another season.
The one-year extension means 2023 will be Griffin’s third season at the Dragons and will be his tenth season coaching in the NRL after stints with the Brisbane Broncos (2011 – 2014) and the Penrith Panthers (2016 – 2018).
“I am very appreciative to extend my time as head coach of the Dragons,” Griffin said.
“We are heading in the right direction, and myself and all the great people at the club are determined to play our roles in bringing future success to the Dragons.”
After 14 changes to their playing roster, Dragons fans are unsure what to expect from their team in the 2022 NRL season.
The club has revamped their forward pack after signing Jaydn Su’A, Aaron Woods, George Burgess and Francis Molo, while Moses Mbye and Moses Suli have added depth to their backline.
Dragons young guns including fullback Tyrell Sloan, halves Talatau ‘Junior’ Amone and Jayden Sullivan and brothers Matt and Max Feagai have all had a taste of NRL action and will be pushing hard for a spot in Griffin’s match day squad.
Griffin knew what he was after in his recruitment drive and wanted some experienced forwards to support the young players.
“We always wanted to build a really strong pack. When you have got young backs like Sullivan, Amone and Sloan they need to play in a team that is going forward to protect them a little bit,” Griffin said.
The Dragons had a strong start to the 2021 NRL season and were right in the mix for the finals. That is before the infamous ‘BBQ-gate’ scandal ripped their season apart as the club finished the season in a disappointing 11th position on the ladder.
It was in July last year in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic when Dragons forward Paul Vaughan hosted a BBQ at his home in Shellharbour with 12 teammates in attendance.
The BBQ was in breach of COVID-19 protocols and as a result, Vaughan was suspended for eight weeks and sacked by the Dragons. The NRL meanwhile handed out $305,000 worth of fines and one match bans to the remaining 12 players.
In his first interview since the incident, Vaughan told Fox League’s NRL 360 that he was ‘deeply remorseful’ for his actions and that being sacked by the Dragons had ‘broken my heart.’
“It was a very bad judgment call on my behalf and obviously very stupid,” Vaughan said.
“I’m deeply remorseful and very sorry for what’s happened. I can’t express that enough. It was a terrible judgment call and one that I very, very much regret.”
As is the way in the NRL, it didn’t take Vaughan long to find another club as he was signed by the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on a one-year deal only a few weeks later.
The incident also broke the heart of Dragons fans in what was looking like a promising season, and some fans, including this author, will always be reminded of ‘BBQ-gate’ every time they attend or host a BBQ.
Hopefully the 2022 NRL season proves successful for the Dragons and their fans and the club can finally play finals football.
It’s been a while…