In 1999, St George Illawarra became the first merged club to enter the NRL as the St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers came together in an arrangement to suit both parties. The Dragons had a long and decorated history in the NSWRL, but viewed the merger as an opportunity to expand their supporter-base, whereas the Steelers were struggling financially and agreed to the deal to retain a presence in the NRL.
In their first year, the ‘Red V’ remarkably made it to the Grand Final, becoming only the second team after the Roosters to achieve this accomplishment in their inaugural season. This Grand Final in 1999 will be remembered as one of the greatest as well as most controversial in history. Played in front of a world-record Rugby League crowd of 107,999, the Storm were awarded a penalty try in the dying moments to win 20 points to 18.
Whilst the Dragons enjoyed a successful period without winning the premiership from 2004-6 under the guide of the youngest ever head coach Nathan Brown, it wasn’t until Wayne Bennett took the reigns of the club in 2009 that they were able to re-establish themselves as one of the NRL heavyweights.
In his first year at the club, Bennett led the Dragons to the minor premiership, before being bundled out of the finals in straight sets. The following year however, the side was able to build on the positives from the 2009 season and after winning their second consecutive minor premiership, the Dragons went all the way and belted long-time rivals the Roosters in the Grand Final 32-8.
Now with Paul McGregor at the helm, St George Illawarra have been solid in recent years without being outstanding. Fans from both Kogarah and Wollongong will be hoping marquee signing Ben Hunt will be able to take the club back to the summit of the competition.
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