In 1999 St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers combined to form the St George Illawarra Dragons. The joint venture would prove successful in the first year, making the grand final, but it proved to be one of the most controversial of all time, ending with a penalty try as the Dragons coughed up a 14-0 halftime lead.
With all my top-ten club lists, to be eligible, a player must have played for the joint venture from 1999 onwards. As with all lists, the one club per man rule is in effect.
10. Ben Hornby
A one-club player, Hornby became the most capped player for the club with 273 games. Hornby led the team into the 2010 grand final and remains the only man to captain the club to premiership glory. Hornby made three appearances for NSW and played one Test for Australia.
9. Trent Barrett
Starting his career at the Illawarra Steelers in 1996, Barrett stuck with the joint venture in 1999 and played halfback in the 1999 grand final. After the departure of Anthony Mundine in 2000 for a career in boxing, Barrett was able to come out of his shell to earn the Dally M Medal for player of the year in 2000. Barrett remains the only player from the club to earn a Dally M Medal and goes down as one of the greatest players to never win a grand final.
8. Brett Morris
Debuting in 2006, Morris became one of the powerhouses at the Dragons. In his 169 games for the club he was twice the highest try-scorer for the season with 25 in the 2009 and 2010 seasons, also becoming the second highest Dragons try-scorer of all time, behind Matt Cooper at 124. He has represented New South Wales 11 times and played 18 Tests for Australia.
7. Ben Creagh
Creagh started his career for the Dragons in 2003 and played his entire career with the Red V, notching up 270 games, the second highest of all time just behind Ben Hornby. Creagh was the successor to Hornby’s captaincy, retiring in 2016.
Creagh was apart of the premiership team in 2010, making more metres than any forward on the park with 149. Creagh was named Dragons Player of the Year – the third time he had received the prestigious award. In 2012, Creagh set the record for most appearances for Country Origin, playing his sixth game. He would have two Tests for Australia and 11 appearances or NSW.
6. Jamie Soward
Soward came from the Roosters to the Dragons in 2007 and ended up defeating his old team in the 2010 grand final. Over Soward’s 140 games for the club, he notched up 977 (39 tries, 398 goals and 25 field goals) points for the club and became the highest points scorer for the club. Achieving the highest points for the club in three consecutive seasons (2009,10 and 2011) while also scoring most points three times in a single game, he has earnt his spot on his list. He would play three games for the Blues.
5. Mark Gasnier
Throughout 174 games at the club. Gasiner would become the fifth longest serving member and fourth highest try scorer with 92. In 2008, he became the sole captain of the club before handing the reigns over to Ben Hornby. Scoring the first try in the 2010 grand final, Gasnier opened the floodgates. Probably one of the best centres of the modern era, Gasnier represented New South Wales 12 times and played 15 Tests for Australia.
4. Nathan Blacklock
A try-scoring machine for the Dragons, Blacklock was the leading try-scorer in the NRL season three years running (24 in 1999, 25 in 2000 and 27 in 2001). He still holds the club record for most tries in a season with 27 in 2001. In the 1999 grand final his 60-metre individual try-scoring effort made history and has been rated one of the best ever grand final tries. Unfortunately, things went south for him in 2002, with Blacklock retiring in 2004.
3. Brad Mackay
The only man on this list to play at the original St George Dragons, Illawarra Steelers and the joint venture, Mackay started his career in 1987 at the St George Dragons and played in the 1992 and 1993 grand finals. In the 1993 grand final, he became only the second man to win the Clive Churchill Medal from the losing team.
In 1995. he played one season for the Western Reds, but then returned to New South Wales and played for the Illawarra Steelers in 1996. In 1999, he played for the joint venture and came off the bench in the 1999 grand final. In total, he played 196 games across all three clubs, scoring 34 tries and playing representative footy for both New South Wales and Australia.
2. Matt Cooper
Coming into the team in 2000, Cooper set records at the club. Playing 243 games for the Red V (third highest in history), he became the all-time top try-scorer for the club with 124 tries, surpassing Nathan Blacklock’s record of 100 in 2010. He is the third highest points scorer due to his all-time try record and was apart of the 2010 grand final wining team. He made 14 appearances for New South Wales and played 7 Tests for Australia.
1. Jason Nightingale
The only current player on this list and the only Kiwi, Nightingale still has at a lot to offer the club. He scored two tries in the 2010 grand final to ensure the team won the title and bring home its first premiership. With 226 games to his name and 95 tries, he currently stands at fourth in both the all-time games and tries list. At only 30 years old he could break both of these records and for these reasons, I have placed him my number one. He has played 31 Tests for New Zealand.
Honourable mentions include Darius Boyd, Gareth Widdop, Josh Dugan, Paul McGregor, Dean Young and Anthony Mundine.
Do you agree with my list? Who is your favourite St George Illawarra Player?