NSW mentor Andy Patmore, Dragons’ Canterbury Cup coach Mathew Head and injured Jillaroos star Holli Wheeler are set to help Daniel Lacey plot St George Illawarra’s bid to go one better than last year’s NRLW grand final loss.
Patmore, Head and Wheeler will join Lacey’s staff, along with long-term assistant Alicia-Kate Hawke, as the Dragons attempt to end Brisbane’s domination of the NRLW since the competition was launched in 2018.
Lacey said Head will be in charge of the Dragons attack, while Patmore will be a specialist coach and Wheeler is in line to mentor the younger St George Illawarra players while she continues her recovery from a season-ending knee injury suffered at February’s NRL Nines in Perth.
"I have worked with Andy at NSW, and he extended the arm and said if I needed a hand at any time he was available to help out," said Lacey, who coached the NSW under-18 women’s team last season.
"Heady is going to run the attack and Andy is going to be more that articulate, specialist person and Alicia-Kate is what we call a middle coach. She can do both, she can be a specialist but she is a relationship coach, as well."
The Dragons are waiting on the NRL to approve contracts and provide biosecurity clearances for players before announcing their squad for the NRLW season but Lacey said he was excited by the coaching team the club had assembled to work under him.
Head, a clever halfback whose NRL career was limited to 78 matches for the Dragons and Wests Tigers due to a series of debilitating knee injuries, coached St George Illawarra’s Canterbury Cup team to the 2019 minor premiership but this year’s competition was cancelled due to COVID-19.
Like Patmore, he offered to help the NRLW team and Lacey welcomed him on board.
"My family and Heady’s family go way back," Lacey said. "We are both from Dapto. I grew up with his brother and I played touch footy with Matty."
Hawke has assisted Lacey with the NRWL team for the past two seasons and will next year take charge of the Tarsha Gale Cup under 18s team, while Wheeler’s role was initially to work as a development coach.
The Dragons are focused on pathways for their under 16s and under 18s players but the biosecurity restrictions have prohibited them from training with the NRLW team this season.
"Holli was helping me at the start of the year with the Tarsha Gale players and her role was going to be to mentor them and guide them through as a development player but because of the bubble we are in the numbers are limited and there are restrictions," Lacey said.
"Holli is in the bubble and we want her around the group. We could see by talking to her that she wanted to be involved and she had a role for the year but the Tarsha Gale stopped.
"It is good for her mental health and she will be a mentor to the young players, because the average age of our squad this year is probably about 22 years old."
Lacey is hoping that the Dragons can start training early next week.