St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin will map out a plan on Wednesday to spread NRL suspensions for 12 players across two to four rounds in a bid to keep his side in finals contention.
It comes after the Dragons sacked ex-representative prop Paul Vaughan on Tuesday for breaching NSW health orders and the NRL bubble by hosting a party at his house for fellow players over the weekend.
Vaughan has copped the heaviest punishment, while another 12 Dragons players have also been fined and suspended for a week which puts the club’s finals hopes in serious jeopardy.
Along with $305,000 worth of fines, the NRL has agreed to allow the Dragons to space the one-week suspensions across two to four rounds to lessen the impact on the quality of the competition.
Just how Griffin plans to do that is unclear.
The Dragons have a bye this weekend but will face Manly, Gold Coast, South Sydney and Canberra across the next month while hoping to hold onto seventh spot on the ladder.
“We’ve got a plan with how we do that to keep winning games which is what we need to do to keep our spot on the ladder,” Griffin said on Tuesday.
“We’ve worked really hard under some trying circumstances this year and to put ourselves in a good position and we don’t intend to let that go easily.
“We’ll put our best team on the park possible over the next four weeks to continue to win games and get into finals contention.”
Jack de Belin, Corey Norman, Daniel Alvaro, Gerard Beale, Jack Bird, Matt Dufty, Kaide Ellis, Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh Kerr, Blake Lawrie, Zac Lomax and Josh McGuire will all miss game time.
As well as NRL and NSW Police imposed fines, the Dragons have also fined the players, with the money to go to local charities.
They will also be required to front the board at some stage and explain their decision to break the NRL bubble and NSW Health orders, which they did so knowingly.
“That’s the thing that hurts the most is some of our players have chosen that path on Saturday night,” Griffin said.
“Every player, every employee of the NRL understands the rules around COVID and what you can and can’t do. It wasn’t about us making a statement to remind them on Saturday night.
“We’ve got some really good people in our club and the people involved in this have made a terrible error in judgement.”
Griffin said although the players were sorry for their actions, with some lying to the club to cover up the involvement of others at the party, they would have to earn back his trust.
“They’re all very remorseful obviously, but the biggest thing it comes down to now is what they do,” he said.
“What they have the biggest control over is their performance at training and in the community.”