Anthony Griffin’s contract extension leaves St George Illawarra with no room to move

While Michael Maguire and Trent Barrett have been under the pump all season, Anthony Griffin has stayed under the radar thanks largely to a pre-season blunder by the club.

These are the worrying stats that expose how St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin dodged a bullet by getting a contract extension before the start of the season.

Heading into Saturday’s showdown with 2021 grand finalists South Sydney, the Dragons are in the midst of the NRL’s worst form slump going back to round 18 last year.

It even makes the Bulldogs and Wests Tigers’ recent results during that period not look as bad.

Dating back to the weekend of Paul Vaughan’s infamous Covid breaking barbecue last July, the Dragons have only won one of their last 12 matches, scoring 204 points and conceding 386.

That includes eight straight defeats to end last season, while their only win so far this season was in round one against the Warriors, followed by three straight defeats to Penrith, Cronulla and Parramatta.

Anthony Griffin’s future is secure despite his team’s woeful performance.
Anthony Griffin’s future is secure despite his team’s woeful performance.

To put it in perspective, in that period the Tigers have three wins from their past 12 games with 208 points scored and 312 against.

The Bulldogs have two wins for 180 scored and 297 against.

But while Michael Maguire and Trent Barrett have been under the pump all season, Griffin has managed to stay under the radar thanks largely to his pre-season extension.

At least that was the case until last Sunday’s 48-14 loss to the Eels led to criticism about Griffin’s shock decision to drop young guns Tyrell Sloan and Junior Amone.

Matty Johns labelled the decision to drop Tyrell Sloan as insane. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images
Matty Johns labelled the decision to drop Tyrell Sloan as insane. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

There is no question the Dragons gave it their best but just got blown away by Parramatta’s skill and speed in the second half.

But Matty Johns labelled the decision to drop Sloan “insanity”.

Griffin doubled down this week when he again named Moses Mbye at fullback and Jack Bird five-eighth, with Amone still on the bench and Sloan at No 21.

Another major issue relates to dummy half veteran Andrew McCullough who was brought in to replace Cam McInnes.

But McCullough is really struggling with the pace of the game and at one point last weekend Reed Mahoney ran past him like McCullough was stuck on a treadmill.

The bigger concern is that McCullough, 32, still has another year to run on his contract.

There is talk the Dragons are in the market for a hooker with the Roosters’ Sam Verrills and the Bulldogs’ Jeremy Marshall-King two obvious options, given the Roosters have bought Brandon Smith and the Bulldogs signed Mahoney.

But the trouble is McCullough is still on the books which will limit how much the Dragons can spend.

Veteran Andrew McCullough is on the books for at least one more year. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images
Veteran Andrew McCullough is on the books for at least one more year. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty Images

There is also understandable unrest among some fans as to why the club felt obligated to take up the option to extend Griffin’s contract until the end of 2023 before the season even kicked off.

The reason given at the time was that the club didn’t want to head into the season with uncertainty about Griffin’s future.

But the legitimate criticism was that the club did a similar thing with Paul McGregor previously and that blew up in their face.

In fairness to Griffin he has really done some major surgery on the roster and it is going to take time for some of the youngsters to find their feet in the top grade.

But there is no question they need to turn these results around sooner rather than later, which makes Saturday’s game all the more important.

The Dragons beat the Bunnies in the Charity Shield and at that point some were thinking they might be a chance to sneak into the top eight this year.

But they have now conceded 104 points in their three most recent games, while scoring just 42 to sit second last on the ladder in front of only the Tigers.

Originally published as Anthony Griffin’s contract extension leaves St George Illawarra with no room to move

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