Jason Ryles has turned down the head coaching role for the St George Illawarra Dragons, despite having most of his demands granted and being effectively out of work for the remainder of the year. He decided against the job after peeking under the Red V bonnet during negotiations and finding the job was a major rebuild of a club that is fractured along shareholder lines. The Red V are now in a difficult position, having been rejected by a rookie in Ryles.
On Friday, the Melbourne Storm formally tabled an offer to Ryles to be an assistant coach. Before then, there had been informal talks between the two parties, at which the Storm officials had made it clear that Ryles would be a leading candidate to replace Craig Bellamy when he eventually gives up coaching.
The Storm’s CEO, Justin Rodski, said that they will be running a process to select the next senior coach and Ryles would be strongly considered as part of that process.
Ryles took advice from Phil Gould, Eddie Jones and Storm head of football, Frank Ponissi, before making his decision to turn down the Dragons‘ job offer. It was the phone call from Bellamy, who wanted Ryles back at the Storm that tipped the scales in favour of Melbourne.
The Dragons CEO, Ryan Webb, initially denied that Ryles was used as leverage in discussions elsewhere, stating that the situation was simply a process. He went on to add that he would rather find out now if Ryles felt the job wasn’t right for him, rather than in six months’ time.
With Ryles out of the picture, the Dragons may look towards Ben Hornby and Dean Young, two of Ryles’ former teammates, for the head coaching role. Young was in Sydney last week before the Cowboys match against the Eels and despite the Dragons being well down the path with Ryles, the team caught up with Young while he was in town. There is also the possibility of Shane Flanagan, who could potentially be an option for the role despite being previously banned by the NRL. Flanagan’s manager has received a call from the Dragons, indicating that the club has not given up on him.
It is not just the head coach role that needs filling, as the Dragons also require a major backer. St George Bank had already been reviewing how to get the best results from their sports marketing budget before the Dragons made the bank’s decision easy for them. The club has regressed during Anthony Griffin‘s tenure, becoming last on the ladder, with rival teams showing interest in their unsettled captain, Ben Hunt.
The search for a new coach has gone back to square one, leaving the Dragons to hope that Hornby and Young will not be offended by being the consolation prize after Ryles’ snubbing.