Shane Flanagan shuts down Dragons critics amid masterful Tyrell Sloan call

They were tipped for the wooden spoon, but the Dragons stunned the NRL.

The Dragons and Shane Flanagan have left the NRL stunned after running riot in their opening round clash against the Gold Coast Titans and the performances of Tyrell Sloan and Zac Lomax has already given fans of the Red V hope. The 28-4 win over Gold Coast on Saturday night handed Flanagan a dream start to the season in his first game in charge of the Dragons.

Many tipped the Dragons to be wooden spoon contenders this year, but their opening round performance has already convinced many Flanagan has made his mark . And Flanagan - coaching his first NRL match since 2018 - couldn't help but take a cheeky dig at his critics after watching his team run riot.

Shane Flanagan (pictured left) took a cheeky dig at the doubters after the Dragons and Tyrell Sloan (pictured right) were brilliant in their opening NRL match. (Getty Images)
Shane Flanagan (pictured left) took a cheeky dig at the doubters after the Dragons and Tyrell Sloan (pictured right) were brilliant in their opening NRL match. (Getty Images)

Many felt the Dragons, Bulldogs and Wests Tigers will duel it out at the bottom of the ladder. However, Flanagan has been quietly confident after taking control of the team.

“I was sitting back quite happy that people were tipping us to come last because it won’t happen,” Flanagan said in his post-match press conference. “It’s been a really good pre-season and the players have worked their butts off… especially defensively, they way I want to play the game they needed to be fitter, faster, stronger and they’ve worked really hard so credit to them and credit to the staff.”

While Flanagan was thrilled, it was the improvement of Sloan and Lomax in their new roles that had the NRL world on notice. The new Dragons coach had talked about improving the defence of Sloan throughout the off-season, but it was his electric attack and decision-making that was a highlight.

Tyrell Sloan scores a try.
Tyrell Sloan scored a hat-trick for the Dragons.

Sloan scored three tries, had five tackle breaks and two line breaks in an all-round display. And the 21-year-old fullback praised Flanagan for giving him the belief to play his game and improve.

"We had a lot of conversations that I will keep behind closed doors, but Flanno keeps instilling in me how to become one of the elite fullbacks," Sloan said. "We have a very strong connection. He is always on my back … and wants the best for me as a person and a player. When I am at my best, the team is at its best.

"I am always willing to learn. That is something I struggled with the last couple of years where I took criticism the wrong way. That is just who I was. Flanno has instilled into all of us the need to change. If we keep doing that we will continue to get results."

Zac Lomax shines in new winger role

Another star that stood out was $800,000 man Lomax. There was speculation of frustration for Lomax heading into the new season after Flanagan moved him from fullback to the wing in pre-season. He was also named on the wing for the opening clash.

And Lomax put up career best numbers with 255 running metres, 24 carries and 10 tackle breaks. And Flanagan moved to quell any speculation Lomax was unhappy at the Dragons having been moved from his preferred position.


“If he wasn’t happy, he wouldn't have played like that. Players sometimes play out of position and his favourite position is right centre," Flanagan added. “To say he’s not happy (is wrong)... He went out there today in a really good frame of mind and did a really good job.”

Despite a strong performance, it is unlikely to quell speculation around Lomax and interest from other clubs. The Titans had some pre-season hype heading into the first round, but their attack was left disjointed without leaders Kieran Foran and David Fifita in the line-up.

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