Losses can't run 2016 Sydney AFL season to remember for St George Dragons

Final hurdle: St George's Karl Merson kicked one goal in their grand final defeat on Saturday. The Dragons went down by 41 points to the East Coast Eagles at Blacktown. Picture: Kerry Wynn

Final hurdle: St George's Karl Merson kicked one goal in their grand final defeat on Saturday. The Dragons went down by 41 points to the East Coast Eagles at Blacktown. Picture: Kerry Wynn

It wasn’t so long ago that St George looked as though they were finished as a club.

But fast forward seven years and the Dragons are celebrating a season to remember.

St George were named the club of the year at the AFL Sydney annual awards night last week on the back of a season of strong performances, highlighted by the club reaching the premier division and division one grand finals at Blacktown on Saturday.

While they didn’t get the results they were after, club president Brendan Donohue is adamant that the future is even brighter.

St George went down 17.5 (107) to 9.12 (66) to minor premiers East Coast in the top grade decider, with the club’s division one side suffering an agonising 11.4 (70) to 9.15 (69) loss to the UTS Bats.

Paul Sain was the only St George player to kick more than a single goal in the premier division defeat.

Donohue said there was plenty to be proud of.

“If someone at the beginning of the season said this is what the year would end up like I’d have said they’re crazy,” he said.

“Where we’ve ended up is unbelievable. I think the whole club is disappointed and a bit down about losing two grand finals but it has been a remarkable year.

If someone at the beginning of the season said this is what the year would end up like I’d have said they’re crazy. - Brendan Donohue

“Unfortunately for us East Coast have been the best side for the last two years. Our boys ran themselves into the ground and at half-time we were still right in it.

“One thing I will say about our boys, and I’m really proud to say this, but seven or eight years ago when we started with a really young side and we copped some beatings they’ve never, ever turned their toes up.

“And they didn’t again. They gave everything they had on the day.”

St George was on the brink of disappearing seven years ago but a decision to stop paying players and focusing on the Dragons’ junior base turned the club around.

They have built a 210-player strong playing group, with five teams built on local juniors who are committed to the club and have bought into what Donohue calls the St George “DNA”.

The Dragons’ two under-19s sides also made the finals this season, underlining the club’s strength.

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