St George Illawarra shocked the NRL in 2017 when they bolted to the top of the ladder despite being slated as contenders for the wooden spoon. They could not quite maintain that pace, however, and threw away a finals place with a last-round loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Gareth Widdop has carried the team in recent years, but the skipper now has a big-money halves partner in Ben Hunt and a defensive leader in England teammate James Graham. You won’t find many bookmakers forecasting a bottom-of-the-ladder finish for the Dragons in 2018.
Can Paul McGregor’s men book a finals berth this time around? Let’s take a look at the odds.
About the St George Illawarra Dragons
|Home grounds:||Jubilee Oval and WIN Stadium|
|Premierships:||One – 2010|
|2017 finish:||Ninth (12-12)|
Best bookies for St George Illawarra betting
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Updated Dragons futures oddsTop NRL odds for St George Illawarra come courtesy of Sportsbet, where new punters can score up to $501 in bonus bets upon joining. Sign up now for free.
|2018 Premiership||Make Finals||Make Top 4||Dally M Odds||Top Tryscorer Odds|
|Feb||$15||$1.80||$3.50||G Widdop – $21||J Nightingale – $81|
|Mar||$11||$1.45||$2.50||G Widdop – $9||J Nightingale – $31|
|Apr||$5.50||$1.08||$1.40||G Widdop – $7||M Dufty – $15|
|May||$4.50||$1.02||$1.22||G Widdop – $6||M Dufty – $21|
|Jun||$5.50||$1.05||$1.50||G Widdop – $7||M Dufty – $31|
|Jul||$5.50||$1.05||$1.50||G Widdop – $7||M Dufty – $31|
|Aug||$9||N/A||$1.28||G Widdop – $10||M Dufty – $67|
|Sep||$41||N/A||N/A||G Widdop – $67||N/A|
Best St George Illawarra bets for NRL 2018
There are dozens of NRL futures markets for the Dragons, but where are they likely to return some real value?
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- St George Illawarra bolted out of the gates last season after starting as one of the favourites for the wooden spoon. The second half of the year was less impressive, however, and they wound up missing finals with a shock loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs in the last round. They are not destined for the cellar in 2018, but nor are they likely to push for top honours.
- The Dragons have only themselves to blame for missing out on the finals last season. The most frustrating thing was the difference between the first half of the year and the second, when their rock-solid defence turned to rubble. The question is: will just a little more consistency put the Red V in finals contention, or did a fast start in 2017 mask an otherwise poor campaign? They are a decent chance for finals, but far from a banker.
- Where would this team be without Gareth Widdop? The Englishman was named at five-eighth in the 2017 Dally M Team of the Year and picked up 24 votes to finish behind only Cameron Smith and Michael Morgan in the Player of the Year count. If you’re backing a Dragon, go for Widdop over new boy Ben Hunt.
- Can Jason Nightingale or Nene Macdonald score 20-odd tries and outgun the likes of Suliasi Vunivalu, Josh Addo-Carr and Alex Johnston? No. If you want to put money on the 2018 NRL top tryscorer, look elsewhere.
2018 St George Illawarra draw
|1||Brisbane Broncos||Jubilee Oval||Thursday, March 8||8:05pm|
|2||Cronulla Sharks||Southern Cross Stadium||Thursday, March 15||8:05pm|
|3||Gold Coast Titans||Clive Berghofer Stadium||Sunday, March 25||4:10pm|
|4||Newcastle Knights||WIN Stadium||Sunday, April 1||4:10pm|
|5||South Sydney Rabbitohs||Jubilee Oval||Friday, April 6||7:50pm|
|6||Cronulla Sharks||WIN Stadium||Friday, April 13||7:50pm|
|7||New Zealand Warriors||Mt Smart Stadium||Friday, April 20||6pm|
|8||Sydney Roosters||Allianz Stadium||Wednesday, April 25||4:10pm|
|9||Melbourne Storm||Jubilee Oval||Sunday, May 6||2pm|
|10||South Sydney Rabbitohs||ANZ Stadium||Sunday, May 13||2pm|
|11||Canberra Raiders||Glen Willow Oval||Sunday, May 20||2pm|
|12||Penrith Panthers||Panthers Stadium||Saturday, May 26||7:35pm|
|14||Canterbury Bulldogs||ANZ Stadium||Monday, June 11||4pm|
|15||Manly Sea Eagles||WIN Stadium||Saturday, June 16||5:30pm|
|16||Parramatta Eels||WIN Stadium||Thursday, June 28||7:50pm|
|17||Melbourne Storm||AAMI Park||Thursday, July 5||7:50pm|
|18||Wests Tigers||Jubilee Oval||Sunday, July 15||4:10pm|
|19||North Queensland Cowboys||1300SMILES Stadium||Saturday, July 21||7:30pm|
|20||Sydney Roosters||Allianz Stadium||Sunday, July 29||4:10pm|
|21||New Zealand Warriors||WIN Stadium||Saturday, August 4||3pm|
|22||Parramatta Eels||ANZ Stadium||Saturday, August 11||7:30pm|
|23||Wests Tigers||Leichhardt Oval||Saturday, August 18||5:30pm|
|24||Canterbury Bulldogs||Jubilee Oval||Sunday, August 26||4:10pm|
|25||Newcastle Knights||McDonald Jones Stadium||Saturday, September 1||3pm|
Dragons players to watch in 2018
A few eyebrows were raised when the Dragons spent millions to secure Hunt on a five-year deal. That investment looked to have gone sour when the Broncos dropped their first-string halfback to the reserves midway through 2017, but he bounced back to play a key role in Queensland’s Origin win and Brisbane’s run to the prelims. The Hunt-Widdop halves pairing looks very promising on paper.
As a product of Merseyside in the UK, Graham knows all about bitter football rivalries. That’s why it was somewhat surprising that the former Canterbury Bulldogs captain announced last year that he was leaving Belmore and moving to Kogarah. Past allegiances aside, the England prop will add fight and experience to St George Illawarra’s front row.
The Red V will need much more from the wings this season if they are to make any sort of impact on the finals. Macdonald was nowhere near dangerous enough in his first year at the Dragons, finishing with only six tries from 23 games. It might be a case of shape up or ship out for the PNG international in 2018.
St George Illawarra records and stats
- Most games: 273 – Ben Hornby and Ben Creagh
Most career points: 977 – Jamie Soward
Most points in a season: 234 – Jamie Soward (2009)
Most career tries: 124 – Matt Cooper
Most tries in a season: 27 – Nathan Blacklock (2001)
Most points in a match: 22 – Gareth Widdop, Jamie Soward, Amos Roberts
- Most consecutive wins: Nine (2011)
Most consecutive losses: Six (2013)
Biggest winning margin: 54-0 (vs. Warriors, 2000)
Biggest losing margin: 10-70 (vs. Storm, 2000)
- Founded in 1998 and playing their first season the following year, the St George Illawarra Dragons are a joint venture between two clubs with very different legacies.
St George were a powerhouse of the NSWRL. They won 15 premierships between 1924 and 1998, including a record 11 in a row during the ’50s and ’60s. By the time the National Rugby League was formed, only South Sydney had won more first-grade flags than the Dragons.
The Illawarra Steelers were rugby league’s whipping boys. They won the wooden spoon three times in 17 years of top-flight footy and reached the playoffs only twice, never once playing in a grand final or winning a premiership.
As the ’90s wore on and the NRL sprang into the existence, it became apparent the Steelers could not survive on their own. Seeing an opportunity to expand both their fanbase and their junior ranks, the Dragons stumped up the bulk of the cash for a new team that encompassed both the swish Sydney suburbs of St George and the working-class coastal region of Illawarra.
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