Pro 12 Season Preview: Newport Gwent Dragons
After the disappointment of last season, Newport Gwent Dragons fans should be looking to go into this season focusing on their academy and the youthful talent they have coming through. They already have glimmers of hope in the superb talent of the likes of Dixon, but what they really need is to create a squad that is competitive on all fronts. They look to have the beginnings of a core group of players to build this around in the likes of Faletau, Lydiate, Hughes and the newly signed Prydie.
It might mean another couple of seasons of being perhaps the forgotten Welsh region, but by putting the structures in place now, they should be laughing, or at least be much better placed in the seasons in the future.
The Dragons have often been seen as the region that has lived within its means. Over reactions in the media recently to their losses should be taken with a huge pinch of salt. The Dragons’ debts are mainly down to the new infrastructure they are building at Rodney Parade. It is a short term loss for a long term investment, and you can only hope the team follows suit. The short term loss of players such as Tovey, Brew and Charteris should hopefully lead to a more long term investment in their academy and bringing forward of youth players.
This season I see the Dragons once again being a stubborn force at home. With the only region having a truly traditional rugby stadium as their home ground, the Dragons and their fans needs to utilise this to the extreme. In seasons past they have done so, yet some of the ferocity seemed to be missing last season. This needs to return with a vengeance, and with the entire stadium being open all season, here’s hoping they get back on track.
I don’t think the Dragons are going to be able to compete too much away from home in the league yet again, but if they can drum up solid home wins, and help nurture and bring through a strong selection of players over the course of the season, I will see that as a success.
The Dragons are doing the right thing (as now are all the other regions), and have done for seasons now, in living within their salary cap. What the Dragons still need to do though is get their academy working like the Ospreys and Scarlets have. They have proven the worth of playing young home grown talent. If the Gwent region can follow suit, I can only see improvement from them going into future seasons.
This year might be another year of building, but Dragons fans should take heart that they follow a side that is determined, stubborn and passionate, and that it’s a side that is looking now to build towards a sustainable future. Darren Edwards may be on borrowed time after the team’s performances of last season, but if they as a team can show the belief and passion they played with when he first took charge, then they will be a team the fans can rightly be proud of.
My players to watch: Tom Prydie, Adam Hughes, Dan Evans and Hywel Stoddart