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Dragons' Sloan credits tough Flanagan chats for reboot

Joe Gould -

St George Illawarra fullback Tyrell Sloan says tough conversations with coach Shane Flanagan made him realise that he needed to make big changes to fulfil his undoubted potential.

The 21-year-old wasn't perfect, but scored three scintillating tries in the 28-4 win over Gold Coast on Saturday night to give Flanagan a dream start to the season in his first game in charge of the Dragons.

Sloan is brilliant with ball in hand but post-match mentioned "the DNA" the team was instilling under Flanagan as he tries to lift the side from a dismal 16th.

He said that revolved around "keeping teams in their own end and backing our defence".

It is an area of Sloan's play that Flanagan and defensive coach Dean Young have been helping him develop.

"We had a lot of conversations that I will keep behind closed doors, but Flanno keeps instilling in me how to become one of the elite fullbacks," Sloan said.

"We have a very strong connection. He is always on my back … and wants the best for me as a person and a player. When I am at my best, the team is at its best.

"I am always willing to learn. That is something I struggled with the last couple of years where I took criticism the wrong way. That is just who I was.

"Flanno has instilled into all of us the need to change. If we keep doing that we will continue to get results."

Flanagan clearly knows how to press Sloan's buttons but it is not by over-praising his undoubted freakish skill-set.

"He is one of those players people come to see play football but for me, as a defensive coach, he needs to tighten a few areas up … but we will give him a tick today," Flanagan said.

"Some of the errors he made last year defensively are there to see. People maybe used the word soft. He is not soft defensively. He will have a crack at it.

"It was probably more a technique thing. Players like Tyrell have to realise you can't score all the time. You've got to value possession and make your tackles.

"It is a fine line to take that little bit of class and flair away and get him on the conservative side."

Sloan is on board with the coach's ethos.

"The DNA we have built in the pre-season, it is all for the team," he said.

Sloan, a proud Indigenous man, suffered a syndesmosis and thumb injury while playing for the Newcastle Yowies in last year's Koori Knockout, a tournament the club let him take part in. He has shown mental and physical strength since.

"It was a pretty tough period. I had big plans with Flanno for the off-season," Sloan said.

"I don't know if the boys were filthy at me, but I was filthy with myself (for getting injured).

"There were lots of tough chats to get back to where I need to be. Being in that gym by myself it was a lonely place but it is all worth it now.

"Coming back with the team in January for pre-season gave me a lot of confidence. Now I am back with a smile on my face and that is what it is all about."

Joe Gould - AAP

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