The St George Illawarra Dragons are losing their identity by letting local talent leave and recruiting outsiders, NSW coach Brad Fittler says.
The Dragons are running 11th in their first season under Anthony Griffin. While Fittler gave the coach a pass mark, he questioned the roster strategy.
Exciting local product Matt Dufty will leave the club after this season, while veterans who previously played under Griffin at the Broncos - like Andrew McCullough and Josh McGuire - have been recruited.
Cowboys and Queensland Origin prop Francis Molo, another Brisbane product, will join the Dragons next season on big money.
"They paid a lot of money for Francis Molo," Fittler said on Wide World of Sports' Freddy and the Eighth.
"I couldn't understand getting all those players, like he's obviously got a really good association with a lot of those Brisbane players that he coached when he was younger and he has a lot of faith in them. I don't know if they're at their best. They're good players but I don't think they're at their best.
"I think letting Dufty go ... there seems to be a lot of locals getting vacuumed out of there. And not just under his watch but 'Mary' (former coach Paul McGregor).
"Jason Saab's another one that was down there. They had [Cameron] McInnes there, he wasn't a junior but [was captain]. Reuben Garrick.
"I find those areas, like Newcastle ... a lot of their identity is about having their kids, that pathway coming up, to play for the Steelers or the Dragons, or whatever they are these days. They're losing their identity."
Fellow NRL great Andrew Johns said that there seemed some method to the madness. The Dragons this week signed former Origin utility Moses Mbye, who will reportedly still have more than half of his contract paid by Wests Tigers.
"They have got some young players coming through and he's doing the Moneyball thing, Anthony Griffin," Johns said on Freddy and the Eighth.
"He's buying some older players who, other clubs will pay for [part of] their contracts; in particular Moses Mbye."
Griffin has some promising Dragons juniors, including Cody Ramsey, who have seen decent game time. Exciting Wollongong product Talatau Amone, aged just 19, will start at five-eighth this weekend.
Johns said that with a junior base spanning right through the south coast, the club had no excuse not to be strong on development.
"Build from within, coach the hell out of your juniors coming through, then go and recruit the best player [position] you're deficient in," he said.
The Dragons are just one win away from eighth spot, with three games remaining; against the Roosters, Cowboys and Rabbitohs.
Two wins may sneak them into the finals though their differential of -108 points is a problem, as it leaves them behind near rivals like the Sharks, Raiders and Titans.
"I thought they showed fight last week against the Panthers, real fight," Johns said. "A couple of decisions didn't go their way."
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