The St George Illawarra Dragons National Youth Competition team returned to training under the guidance of new NYC Head Coach Wayne Collins in early November.
Collins arrived to the Club during the off-season having most recently held the title of NRL Assistant Coach at the South Sydney Rabbitohs (2012-16) and replaces Mat Head who has been elevated to NSW Cup & Transition Coach.
Collins has additionally also held Assistant Coach roles with both the Penrith Panthers (2007-11) and Canberra Raiders (2004-06), having also had a successful first-grade playing career with the Raiders (1988-90), St George Dragons (1991-94), South Queensland Crushers (1995-96) and Leeds Rhinos (1997).
“I am excited by the opportunity to have been appointed NYC Head Coach of the Dragons and overseeing a very talented group of players as we prepare for the new season,” said Collins.
“I have been lucky enough to have had a long career in rugby league both as a player and now a coach so there is a lot that I can pass on and teach this playing group.
“The entire playing group has been very receptive to whatever they have been told which makes my job that little bit easier as I want to try and develop as many of them into first-grade players.
“I had been held the role of NRL Assistant Coach for several seasons but I was looking for a new challenge in overseeing a team and I am lucky to have inherited a team who went deep into the NYC Finals last year.
“I have enjoyed turning up to training each and every day so far as they bring an enthusiasm which is great to witness as I see it as my job to give each player every opportunity to develop into a first-grade player.”
The Young Dragons pre-season train-on squad comprises of 29 players of which 14 are returning members of the successful 2016 squad who were one match short of the NYC Grand Final.
These returning players will be joined by 15 new additions which are a combination of local juniors, St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers SG Ball graduates, external High Performance Unit (HPU) targeted players and rugby union players.
The new-look team will include 13 members of the Illawarra Steelers SG Ball team which reached the 2016 NSWRL Grand Final last season which included Junior Kiwis U18 representative fullback Steve Marsters, NSW U18 representative Zac Bailey, Queensland U18 representative Tristan Sailor (son of former Dragon Wendell Sailor) and winger Dylan Morris (son of former Dragon Steve Morris).
In total, the Young Dragons will comprise of 15 local juniors from across the St George, Illawarra and South Coast regions as well as a further five players previously identified through the Club’s external HPU program.
Young Dragons players Patrick Herbert (captain), Blake Lawrie, Reuben Garrick, Jai Field and Reece Robson are presently training full-time with the NRL first-grade squad but are eligible for NYC in 2017.
Furthermore, an additional 11 trialists will also train with the squad in the hopes of earning a playing contract for the new season.
2017 NYC Contracted Pre-Season Training Squad:
Max Bailey (Thirroul Butchers); Jack Cross (Port Kembla Blacks); Josh Dowel (Warilla-Lake South Gorillas); Jai Field (Shellharbour Sharks); Brayden Gallagher (External HPU); Reuben Garrick (Gerringong Lions); Jason Gillard (Nowra-Bomaderry Jets); Patrick Herbert (External HPU); Elijah Hunt; Matheson Johns (Thirroul Butchers); Blake Lawrie (Dapto Canaries); Hayden Lomax (External HPU); Zac Lomax (External HPU); Joe Lovodua (Hurstville United); Steve Marsters (Thirroul Butchers); Stuart Mason (Dapto Canaries); Jayden Morgan (Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles); Dylan Morris (Kiama Knights); Trent Peoples; Cooper Purcell (Thirroul Butchers); Reece Robson; Tristan Sailor (Western Suburbs Red Devils); Israel Seufale; Matt Sheppard; Rudi Sifa; Vinnie Tikeri; TJ Uele; Bailey Wallace (External HPU); Jackson Willis.
2017 NYC Trialists:
Tom Angel (Kiama Knights); Reece Burns (Penshurst RSL); Caleb Campbell; Jackson Ford (Gerringong Lions); Dane Francis (Thirroul Butchers); Toby Gumley-Quine (Gerringong Lions); Jamen Johnson; Jaydon Lonergan; Bailey MacBeth; Ryan Matthews (Thirroul Butchers); Jayme McElhone (Thirroul Butchers).