Former Australian cricket captain Mark Taylor has been parachuted in to help support St George Illawarra captain Ben Hunt and the rest of the Dragons leadership group by new coach Shane Flanagan.

Flanagan will lean on Taylor and decorated former St George captain Mark Coyne to help grow the Dragons leadership stocks which has been severely lacking in recent years. It is also part of Flanagan’s plans to help offer more support to Hunt despite Hunt’s open reluctance to remain at the club next season.

“I‘d love to help,” Taylor told this masthead. “You need someone like a Ben Hunt on your side. At the moment, the Dragons need Ben Hunt, he’s such a good player.

“I think the messaging he‘s getting out there is harmful for the Dragons at the moment. But that can change and should change. I don’t think there’s any malice in what Ben’s saying, it’s just being honest.

“He‘ll become a better leader under Flanno, I’m sure. Then what the Dragons have got to say is, who is the next leader under Ben?

“Who then fills that void? Who is our next Craig Young – a long term leader that we want at this club for the next 10 and 20-years?”

Taylor and Coyne were on hand to launch a brunch which put club bosses, sponsors and ex-players under the one roof at St George Leagues Club on Friday morning which was the brainchild of Flanagan.

Coyne and Flanagan have a close bond from their playing days at the Dragons in the late 1980s with Coyne having forged a friendship with Dragons-mad fan Taylor. Former players including Ricky Walford, Jason Nightingale, Ben Creagh and Matt Elliott were also in the room.

Taylor said he would use what he learnt during his time as Australian skipper to help with the Dragons next season.

“I‘m a pretty simple guy,” Taylor said. “I wasn’t thrown into leadership, I was brought into leadership by NSW Cricket and eventually as a vice-captain of Allan Border. 

“My mantra on leadership is, ‘learn from people.’ Look at what other successful people have done to get where they are.

“I would be telling anyone, whether it would be Ben Hunt, or a young guy at the Dragons, look at people like Cameron Smith, what he did when he was captain of Melbourne and Australia. Look at Billy Slater today. Brad Fittler, Andrew Johns, they weren‘t perfect, but try and grab those bits that you liked about them and use and better yourself.”

When Hunt was sidelined this year the likes of Jack de Belin and Blake Lawrie captained in his absence.

Flanagan said having the likes of Coyne and Taylor around the group would pay dividends.

“It’s important,” Flanagan said. “Tubby (Taylor) will speak about his experienced having captain Australia and NSW. Coyney will speak about how the joint-venture started, being in and losing grand finals.

“There could be (more leaders at the club). We just need to see who wants to stick their head up and understands leadership and what it looks like. There could be a lot of them there. I don’t think they’ve been challenged in the area.”

  • ORIGINAL ARTICLE – Michael Carayannis and David Riccio – The Daily Telegraph

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