A Shallow Dive into the 2022 St George Illawarra Dragons

Your men’s St George Illawarra Dragons finished the 2022 NRL season in tenth place with an even 12-12 record and -100 points difference. Their offence scored the least points outside of the bottom five and their defence was tenth best in the league. With only 9.8 Pythagorean wins, the Dragons significantly outperformed their true performance and are due to underperform next year.

Your women’s St George Illawarra Dragons finished the season in third place with a 3-2 record and -29 points difference. After being crushed by the Knights and Roosters, the Dragons’ Pythagorean expectation was only for 1.7 wins. Their attack was insipid, the second worst in the league.

The Victory Lap

From the men’s pre-season deep dive:

*makes loud farting noise*

*makes even louder, longer farting noise*

Then from the second women’s pre-season deep dive:

St George Illawarra have had the least turnover of any of the franchises. They haven’t tried to sign any big names and only lost three to retirement and other clubs. That cohesion and the return of Jamie Soward, who might actually know what he’s doing in this context, is a big plus for a team that finished with a 4-1 record and looked set to take the minor premiership until the Eels captiulated in the final round of the season.

Within that cohesion, there’s a lot to like. Kezie Apps, Elsie Albert, Teagan Berry, Rachael Pearson and Emma Tonegato are five talented footballers to be building a premiership campaign around. The emergence of Pearson in particular was significant and she’s now has incumbency on the NSW 7 jersey, albeit was relatively quiet in the game itself. The Dragons managed to more or less match the Broncos across the park and if they can eke a little bit more out of their team, they will be right in the mix.

There was no ekeing nor were they ever really in the mix.

What happened

This is the third season I’ve written Shallow Dives™ and I hate writing about the Dragons. They are never good, nor really bad nor interesting in any way. I’m just going to leave you with this graph of how much salary each player should collect if the salary cap was hypothetically $10.4 million and distributed according to Wins Above Reserve Grade.

Hope this helps the club with what Moneyball actually looks like.

The recurring theme of the women’s season is sample size. Across the two regular seasons this year, the Dragons have won 7 from 10, just as many as the Roosters, one more than the Broncos, three more than the Titans and Knights and four more than the Eels. But the Dragons never looked competitive in the 2022 season, not like they did in the 2021 season. They lost to the Roosters by a lot and lost to the Knights by a lot in the last round of the season, setting them up for a week one exit against the same Knights by a pretty similar margin. As I observed at the start of the year:

One thing to keep in mind is the differing levels of player form we’ll see across the competition. 2022 is a huge year for the women, contesting two NRLW premierships, a World Cup, probably a three game Origin series and most, if not all, will have state cup commitments. Most athletes manage a few months at peak performance in a given season and it’d be entirely understandable if many opted not to be in that frame for February, saving their best for winter and early spring.

A Deep Dive into the 2021* NRLW season

Because there was a separation of several months between two sets of five regular season games, we may have seen a Dragons side with a little extra form and a little extra luck go hard in March and set expectations too high for September.

There’s always next year

I’m not even sure their fans care what happens next year.

The women’s side seems fine. There’s plenty to work on – the attack scored the second least points and the pack made the second least metres per game – but they have a big headstart on the new teams. They just need to keep the group together, maybe find some non-Sharks-affiliated players, and they’ll do alright in 2023 and we’ll get a better idea of where they stand.

Anthony Griffin sucks. He isn’t in the immediately fireable tier of coaches but he’s in trouble. Griffin was thirteenth on the season for Coach Factor, right around Justin Holbrook’s level, and has the least added class Elo rating points of any of the current NRL coaches with one (1). The Broncos may already be making moves to get the jump on the next cycle, while the Knights and Titans will likely have their hands forced in 2023. Where that leaves the Dragons, who fired a single warning shot at Griffin in the run to the end of the season, and their inept management remains to be seen. If the people who pull the strings thought this roster would be competitive and that they were being clever, i.e. legitimately believed the guff about moneyball, Griffin is the least of the club’s woes. Fans should be worried about who the string pullers might bring in.