Shane Flanagan has warned his St George Illawarra players that a brutal pre-season is on the horizon as the Red V aims to rise up the ladder in 2024.
The 2016 premiership-winning coach spoke at Friday's Dragons Way Breakfast, where Flanagan discussed the challenges and exciting opportunities that lay ahead for the club ahead of the next NRL season.
Flanagan added another piece to his off-field puzzle earlier this week when the Red V revealed that Shane Millard would return to the club as their new recruitment manager.
When players returned from their post-season break, Flanagan admitted that it would be a "tough" but "smart" pre-season block as the side aims to drastically improve on their 16th place finish in 2023.
"With the staff that we've got on board and the program that we've set in place, it will make sure we're in a good position," he said.
"We'll be fitter, faster and stronger - I know every club will probably say the same thing, but it will be a real focus of ours. And then the football program in there as well has got to complement our speed and strength. So it will be a tough time ahead but it will be enjoyable."
Flanagan added that he didn't believe the Dragons were far off turning the ship around in terms of on-field performances.
"There were a couple of games early on where we could have won (this year), there were a couple of ones where we got the raw end of a refereeing decision," he said.
"But at the back end of the year, I thought we competed really hard but we just couldn't get the result. We just needed a bit of spit and polish on our performance and we could have got a result. For me, without a doubt, we've got the talent there to play semi-finals. I know it's every club's goal but it's definitely our goal.
"We've got to win games away from home - we didn't do that well at all this year. And we need to make WIN and Kogarah fortresses again and make sure that clubs don't want to come there."
The Dragons coach also confirmed that the squad would continue to be given a shake-up in the coming months. Flanagan's son Kyle and Siliva Havili are heading to Wollongong for the 2024 season, and they won't be the last new signings.
"I think we'll have two or three more (signings) before Christmas and then we'll see what happens after that," Flanagan said.
"We'll probably keep two spots available in our top 30 rolling into next year. Obviously with injuries and what happens at clubs these days, you need to have that flexibility. And we've got some really good juniors coming through... so I'm looking forward to working with those young boys and who knows where they can go.
"We saw the Couchmans this year make their debut, they came through the program, and there's a few more to come. We're looking forward to them having another pre-season, they're only going to be better for it."
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