Shane Flanagan appointment exposes sad Dragons truth: 'Waste of time'

The spotlight has turned back on the NRL club after it finally ended a long-running search for a new coach.

Pictured here, current Manly assistant Shane Flanagan.
Current Manly assistant Shane Flanagan is set to take over as head coach of the Dragons in 2024. Pic: Getty

St George Illawarra fans would no doubt be rejoicing after the club finally ended its search for a new coach, however, with the appointment of premiership-winning former Sharks mentor Shane Flanagan comes more questions at the Dragons. The embattled NRL club finally ended the long-running saga after its board unanimously decided on Tuesday that Flanagan would become Anthony Griffin's permanent successor from 2024.

Flanagan had for some time been linked with the head coaching role at the Dragons, who were turned down by apparent first choice Jason Ryles, when the former Roosters assistant decided on re-joining Melbourne to be part of Craig Bellamy's coaching staff. That saw Flanagan ultimately land the job ahead of Dragons greats and current NRL assistants Dean Young and Ben Hornby - both considered to be heavily in the mix.

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Speaking about Flanagan's appointment on NRL 360, league reporters Paul Crawley and David Riccio both agreed that the former premiership-winning coach was exactly what the Dragons needed. Flanagan's experience and proven track record in recruitment is seen as key to bringing stability to a club that has been underperforming for years and sits bottom of the NRL ladder after a woeful first half of the season.

Both men were highly critical that a change hadn't happened sooner at the Dragons, considering Griffin's head was on the chopping block last year and at the start of this year. Riccio said the indecisiveness at the Dragons meant this current season was effectively a "waste of time".

“This season has been a write-off since February, when the board and management decided to make the call on Anthony Griffin and suggest to him that: ‘we may or may not go with you beyond this season’,” Riccio said. “From that very point the entire season was a waste of time.

“They (Dragons) should have made the call late last year, move on, and get this season underway with a new future – full recruitment for success on the field. It just hasn’t happened.” Crawley added: “It’s a pity it’s taken this long. They could have made decision last year and they probably would have had Flanagan on board right now."

“But for the club at the moment, having an experienced coach with his credentials to take over, it’s a good fit.”

Shane Flanagan has massive task at Dragons

Riccio said the job now facing Flanagan is enormous at a joint venture club with an often divided board. Describing the club as being "riddled with dysfunction", he argued that it would take someone with the experience and strength of character like Flanagan to oversee a drastic transformation.

The Dragons will be hoping Flanagan's winning experience and previous stint on their staff can help convince current players to stay put and others to sign on despite the lack of recent success. Even before being guaranteed the job, Flanagan had made contact with captain Ben Hunt to encourage the halfback not to follow close confidant Griffin out the door.

Seen here, Dragons captain Ben Hunt.
Keeping hold of captain and superstar Ben Hunt will likely be top priority for Shane Flanagan at the Dragons. Pic: Getty

But the bulk of work on the roster will wait until the off-season with Flanagan set to see the season out as right-hand man to Anthony Seibold as the Sea Eagles push for finals. With a 2-2 record since taking over from Griffin, interim coach Ryan Carr will remain in charge before Flanagan takes the reins.

Crawley and NRL great Gorden Tallis said it would be "ideal" for the Dragons if Flanagan took over as soon as possible, to start identifying which players he wants to keep and which he wants to perhaps let go for next season. However, Riccio suggested that Flanagan will likely repay the faith Manly showed him, by remaining the Sea Eagles assistant until the end of the season.

“Talking to Manly officials, all indications are that Shane feels a little indebted to the Sea Eagles for the way they’ve helped him get his coaching career back on track,” Riccio said. “He would be more than comfortable sticking around to see them through to the finals this year.”

with AAP

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