After missing a place in the finals since 2018, the Dragons need to start well and they are guaranteed two points from the opening round after being the first club to receive the bye in the expanded 17-team competition.
However, it is what happens in the four weeks after that which is likely to determine the direction their season takes, with matches against the Titans (home), Broncos (away), Sharks (home) and Dolphins (home).
The Dragons won 12 of their 24 matches last season but finished 10th after a post-Origin slump in which they lost five games in six weeks between rounds 17 and 22.
Former Wests Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle and prop Zane Musgrove are the only recruits with NRL experience, but the club has a glut of local talent coming through the ranks.
Predicted Round 1 team
- Tyrell Sloan
- Mat Feagai
- Moses Suli
- Zac Lomax
- Mikaele Ravalawa
- Jayden Sullivan
- Ben Hunt
- Zane Musgrove
- Jacob Liddle
- Blake Lawrie
- Jack Bird
- Jaydn Su’A
- Jack de Belin
- Moses Mbye
- Tyrell Fuimaono
- Josh Kerr
- Aaron Woods
Others: Talatau Amone, Billy Burns, Max Feagai, Jaiyden Hunt, Nick Lui Toso, Tautau Moga, Francis Molo, Michael Molo, Cody Ramsey.
The best NRL tries from the Dragons in 2022
- Squad spots filled: 26/30
The Dragons have four roster spots to fill and bolstering their stocks of middle forwards is a priority following the departures of Josh McGuire, Tariq Sims, Poasa Faamausili, Jackson Ford, Jack Gosiewski and George Burgess in the off-season.
Prop Zane Musgrove has joined the club from Wests Tigers, along with Queensland Cup frontrower of the year Nick Lui-Toso, but the Dragons are still light on for middles – although they have been linked with Tonga stalwart Ben Murdoch-Masila.
The hooking stocks also remain low, with Jacob Liddle the only specialist dummy half in the NRL squad after being signed from Wests Tigers to replace Andrew McCullough.
Moses Mbye and Jayden Sullivan are most likely to deputize for Liddle but the club also has Connor Muhleisen on a development contract.
‘I always aim for the top’: Meet Connor Muhleisen
The coaching staff are currently assessing 17 players on train-and-trial contracts, including former Storm hooker Haele Finau, whose brother Sione has been signed as a development player.
Fullback Cody Ramsey is sidelined indefinitely after being hospitalized with ulcerative colitis, while prop Francis Molo will miss the opening two rounds as he completes a four-match high tackle ban that ended his 2022 campaign.
The remainder of the Dragons squad are on track to play in the pre-season, including Fijian winger Mikaele Ravalawa, whose World Cup campaign in England was cut short by a hamstring injury.
Lock Jack de Belin (shoulder), center Moses Suli (ankle) and second-rower Tyrell Fuimaono (elbow) have recovered from off-season surgery.
New recruit Nick Lui-Toso suffered a pectoral muscle strain before pre-season training commenced but doesn’t require surgery, while rookie forward Ryan Couchman, is back in training following an off-season shoulder operation.
Dragons preseason fitness update
Most contentious position
After parting ways with Matt Dufty at the end of the 2021 season because of the fullback talent in their ranks, the Dragons are yet to settle on who their first choice No.1 is.
Tyrell Sloan started at fullback in the first four games last season before Moses Mbye took over the role but it was Cody Ramsey who wore the No.1 shirt the most (12 matches).
With Ramsey unlikely to start the season, Sloan is again expected to get first shot at fullback.
Captain Ben Hunt is one of the best point guards in the game, a proven match winner and an inspirational leader for a young Dragons backline brimming with talent and strikepower.
Five-eighth Talatau Amone, center Moses Suli (both Tonga) and wingers Mat Feagai (Samoa) and Mikaele Ravalawa (Fiji) will benefit from the experience they gained at the World Cup, while Zac Lomax was third for try assists by centers in 2022 and Sloan is one of the NRL’s most exciting rookies.
The best Mat Feagai tries in 2022
Biggest question mark
Liddle is the only specialist dummy half and unless the Dragons sign another hooker Moses Mbye and Jayden Sullivan are likely to have to share the role if he is out.
Moses started at hooker in three matches last when Andrew McCullough was unavailable and Sullivan wore the No.9 jersey in the round 24 clash with Wests Tigers.
With uncertainty over the future of Talatau AmoneSullivan and Moses may also be vying to partner captain Ben Hunt in the halves.
Local product Connor Muhleisen, who co-captained the winning 2019 Steelers SG Ball team, has been signed as a development player, while Melbourne junior Haele Finau is on a train-and-trial contract, but neither have played NRL.
- Feb 11: Dragons v St Helens at WIN Stadium, Wollongong
- Feb 18: Dragons vs Rabbitohs, Glen Willow Stadium, Mudgee