2008 St. George Illawarra Dragons Season - NRL Telstra Premiership

NRL Telstra Premiership

Having failed to bring the club a premiership during his current tenure with the Dragons and coming off contract at the end of the year, Coach Nathan Brown has had heat on him from 2007 to bring the Dragons up and away from the bottom of the ladder. Since the start of the 2008 season, the Dragons have had, once again, loss after loss which has caused Peter Doust (Dragons CEO), to bring in a new coach in the case of Brisbane Broncos current coach Wayne Bennett for the 2009 season up until 2011. The Dragons started the 2008 season by winning the Mercury Challenge match against the Bulldogs 40-30 at WIN Stadium in Wollongong and winning their first Toyota Cup trial match against Bulldogs at 30-22. The following week the Dragons went down to the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the annual Charity Shield clash 24-20 at ANZ Stadium.

The club received a boost in May when former Union and League (Brisbane Broncos) star Wendell Sailor joined the team after a 2-year ban from professional sport in Australia due to his cocaine controversy. The Dragons started another year with disappointing results when they only won three times after 10 rounds, defeating the Gold Coast Titans in Round 2, the Sydney Roosters in Round 7 and the Melbourne Storm in Round 10 all with terrific results. On 23 May, the Dragons recorded their first back-to-back wins of the season when they defeated the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles at Brookvale Oval with a final score of 20-18.

The Dragons new winger Wendell Sailor made his NRL return in this match also sustaining a minor cheekbone injury. The club also signed South Sydney Rabbitohs player Ben Rogers from an immediate release to join the Dragons on 12 June but released Jason Ryles from his contract to join the Catalans Dragons in the English Super League for 2009. Days later they signed New Zealand international and Melbourne Storm player Jeremy Smith for 3 seasons.

Their 7-game winning streak came to an end in Round 18 when they were defeated by the Canberra Raiders 19-12 at WIN Stadium for the Illawarra Heritage Match. On 15 July, it was announced that captain Mark Gasnier would not be returning after the end of the 2008 season to join the Stade Fran├žais Rugby Union team in France. The deal is worth around $1 million a year.

After 1 win in their last 5 games, the Dragons defeated the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium with a 24-20 win. Then in Round 24, they defeated the New Zealand Warriors 34-6 at WIN Stadium, Wollongong to keep their finals hopes alive. The dragons were favoured to defeat the Roosters in round 26 to either finish fourth or fifth. They had been playing widespread open football and Mark Gasnier and Matt Cooper were carving up the opposition. In extremely wet conditions, the Roosters pack were more favoured to the conditions. They finished the regular season 7th place on the ladder which could have been 6th if they scored at least 2 points in their Round 26 match with the Sydney Roosters. They made it to the first week of the finals, but lost to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 34-6 at Brookvale Oval being eliminated from the Finals Series due to their lowly position in the Top 8.

The club went on a 'signing spree' purchasing Neville Costigan, Darius Boyd and Luke Priddis among others, but lost flyer Josh Morris (Bulldogs), Mark Gasnier (French Rugby), Jason Ryles (French league), Rangi Chase (ESL), Lagi Setu (Broncos) and Simon Woolford & Kirk Reynoldson with retirement.

Position Pld Won Drew Lost Bye Points For Points Against Points Differential
7th (of 16) 24 13 0 11 2 489 378 111

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