Griffin's sacking puts Dragons on the path to clarity

·3-min read
Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS

St George Illawarra will accelerate their search for a new coach, with chief executive Ryan Webb vowing to not let the saga drag on after Anthony Griffin's axing.

The race to replace Griffin is a battle between three contenders, with Jason Ryles the primary option ahead of fellow former Dragons Ben Hornby and Dean Young.

Whether Ryles opts to exit his contract as Sydney Roosters assistant a year early remains to be seen, after previously being viewed as an option to replace Craig Bellamy at Melbourne.

The Dragons were hopeful on Tuesday that Bellamy's decision to coach on in 2024 could only help their cause, given there is a clearer opening in Wollongong.

Hornby and Young also remain as contenders.

While the focus has remained on South Sydney assistant Hornby in recent weeks, he and Young went from playing to assistants at the Dragons together last decade.

It was Young who took over the Dragons on an interim basis in 2020 when Paul McGregor moved on, before he missed out on the top job to Griffin and moved to work with the Cowboys.

Regardless, Griffin's exit on Tuesday has allowed the Dragons to ramp up talks and engage in deeper discussions with candidates.

"We don't want it to drag out, but there is no set time frame," Webb told AAP. 

"As long as it takes to get the right person, that's how long it can take. But we're not going to drag it out any more than it needs to be."

There is also a hope Tuesday's decision moves the club in the direction of clarity.

Club officials have admitted in recent months that the uncertainty has not helped them in the player market, with limited NRL-capped talent signed in the past 12 months.

The Dragons also have nine players off-contract for next season, with Jack de Belin among those and needing to take up an option for 2024 by the end of this month.

"It would help to get the coaching appointment done," Webb said. 

"That's why we don't want it to drag out because we understand it does have impacts on our roster and the staffing around that as well.

"With a change in coaches often comes a change in support staff. They bring their own strengths and weaknesses. There are a few things we have to sort out."

Webb also said while developing younger players would remain on the charter for the next coach, he was insistent they would not have to overhaul the system.

"Hook (Griffin) had done a really good job in really supporting the pathways," he said.

"Toby Couchman is a perfect example, and there are plenty of players behind him. (Jayden) Sullivan is getting plenty of time now and Sloany (Tyrell Sloan).

"He (Griffin) put a lot of focus on pathways and there are a lot of good players coming through. It is about continuing on the good work that has been started."