You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
'We were getting better every game': Talau encouraged by Dragons' SG Ball season

After a difficult start to the season, Willie Talau’s Dragons ignited their year with a 24-10 win over Illawarra in Round 5 which led to a period in which they won three games out of four.

Their improved back-half of the season was not enough to spark a finals run however, with the side finishing 11th on the ladder – their equal-highest finish since 2018.

Despite finishing short of the playoffs, Talau was ultimately pleased with the way the season unfolded.

“I think our season was a success,” he said.

“Every game that we were in, we were competitive. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge.

“You always want to win more games but we’ve got to always look at the big picture and that’s development. By the end of it, we unearthed some more talent.”

Talau was pleased with the manner in which the playing group went about their business and made strides across the season.

“There’s a mindset that we tried to instil within the young players and that was basically based around the old school values that the St George Dragons were built on through their successful periods and hard work and honesty was probably at the top of that list,” he said.

“Like anything, it takes time. We showed really good signs earlier in the year through the games that we fell short in. It felt like we were growing every game and we were getting better every game individually and as a group.”

Talau notes the side’s trans-Tasman trip to take on a physical Warriors side as a “key turning point” in the season.

“New Zealand are a really big pack and they took it to us. At one point, we were down to no-one on the bench. The game was pretty brutal,” he said.

“We were down by 12 points just after half-time and we ended up being 24-all with two minutes to go and they stole one at the end. Even though it was heartbreaking, just the message to the players on that day was the fact that they could hold their heads up high.

“Disappointment, for me, is an emotion that people that have genuinely had a go deserve to feel and I thought we deserved to feel disappointed that day because of how much we had invested.”

The Dragons went on to win three of their next four games following the trip to Auckland including a crucial win over the Steelers at Kogarah.

Talau has worked closely with Steelers coach Russ Aitken over the past several years and maintains that the focus remains on development even when their sides clash.

“For me, it was just another game and same for Russ. For us, it’s all about the development of our two areas,” he said.

“When those guys do come into the bottleneck, everything’s consistent for them and most of it is built around effort and their attitude towards working hard and the way they behave and act towards upholding the standards and values of what this club is built on.”

One player that Talau believes epitomises these standards is co-captain and back-rower Nick Tsougranis, an Arncliffe Scots junior who has been rewarded with a promotion to the Jersey Flegg squad for the second year in a row.

“Nick’s a tremendous person first and foremost. We talk about people that are selfless, people that are team players and work hard for others and Nick leads that,” Talau said.

“He’s strong in character and that was why he was one of our captains. He didn’t let anyone down and everyone’s got a high opinion of him.”

Talau also made mention of the efforts of co-captain and halfback Nick Quinn and prop Loko Pasifiki Tonga.

“[Quinn] was tremendous all year. He had a really big influence on most of the good things that happened in attack for us – he’s got a really high footy IQ. He’s one of those players that you want to play with because, for a little guy, he just competed,” he said.

“We’ve got some good, young forwards coming through. [Tonga] joined us from Ipswich High who won the comp the year before. He’s got a big future, he moves really well. Our strength was our middles.”

Talau enjoyed what was a “rewarding” season in his first year as head coach of the under-19s squad and felt as though expectations were exceeded.

“The expectations that they have on themselves are one thing but, when you exceed that consistently, that’s all you can do really,” he said.

“That was the measure of success when we exceeded expectations and I thought we did that not just on gameday but more in a development and a pathways sense.”

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

Major Partner

Apparel Partners

Icon Partners

View All Partners