Following the retirement of premiership heroes Ben Hornby and Dean Young and the failure to capture a superstar signing like Cooper Cronk, the success of St George Illawarra's next generation has never been more important.
So it is with a perfect sense of timing that first-year National Youth Cup coach Justin Holbrook is just 80 minutes away from a grand final with the Dragons' emerging under-20 talent.
Now in the NRL hot seat, Steve Price has been in Holbrook's shoes on two occasions.
In 2008 and 2009, the Dragons made the preliminary final and were swept aside by Saturday night's opponents Canberra, and Wests Tigers.
Trent Merrin was captain then, while Jake Marketo, Cameron King, Mitch Rein and next year's NRL halfback candidate Kyle Stanley were all part of one or both campaigns.
Former Dragons juniors Dean Whare (Manly), Kane Linnett, Kalifa Fai Fai Loa (North Queensland), Beau Henry and Joe Vickery (Gold Coast) played under Price too.
For Holbrook's class of 2012 - featuring centre Nathan Green and prop Jack Stockwell as leaders who have had a taste of NRL - their pursuit of an NYC premiership is also a symbolic gesture the future is in safe hands after all.
"Absolutely I think it's important for the club," Holbrook said of the team's finals surge.
"Everyone knows some great players of the club are retiring and you've got to get the young guys coming through.
"It's important for the club and supporters to have some confidence in these players and to be able to support them during the finals."
Yesterday, as Holbrook was discussing his team's stunning rise, many of the NRL players were on a flight to Las Vegas for end-of-season festivities, after missing the play-offs for the first time since 2007.
Holbrook said the senior players at the club had been hugely supportive.
Young Dragons hold key to club’s future
‘‘They’ve been great,’’ Holbrook said.
‘‘They’ve had to continue doing their weights [sessions] for the last couple of weeks, and when they’ve been around they’ve been chatting to the [under-20] players and myself and telling us it’s great we’ve been going well.’’
While Jamie Soward and Matt Cooper stayed on for next season amid speculation about their futures, the Dragons chased key signings with the cash available from the departures of Young, Hornby, Darius Boyd, Beau Scott and Mark Gasnier.
They had Cronk in their sights, but declined to stump up the $800,000 salary to ensure his move from Melbourne to the Illawarra.
Departing from Brisbane, Gerard Beale arrives in Wollongong in November as the club’s biggest buy, at least so far anyway.
But he faces some stiff competition for the coveted fullback role, with the dynamic Evander Cummins opting to have surgery on his foot to be fit for the summer toil.
Josh Drinkwater, the fledgling playmaker lured from Manly, may well emerge to be next year’s Adam Reynolds – the boom South Sydney halfback who will play in the NRL preliminary final against Canterbury, after the Dragons tackle the Raiders at ANZ Stadium.
Drinkwater and several of the Dragons’ NYC crop could well be on the fast track to first grade to fill the void, a path that starts on Saturday night.