Jebel Ali Dragons are among the first clubs to start planning for next season by announcing Henry Paul as the club’s new director of rugby, while Stuart Quinn is the new chairman.
Former New Zealand rugby league and England union international Paul, 43, arrived at Dragons last summer as head coach, an impressive coup pulled off by outgoing director of rugby, Paul Hart.
Along with Jonny MacDonald and Andy Buist, the ex-Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls player revived the sleeping Dragons, who ended the season fighting Abu Dhabi Harlequins for the UAE Premiership title.
It was the beginning of a new chapter for the Jebel Ali outfit who had endured two seasons of struggle since winning back-to- back trebles in 2012/13 and 2013/14.
Dragons finished fourth in the West Asia Premiership this past season and finished runners-up to Quins in both the Premiership and Dubai
Sevens to signal their revival – while their third team won the Community League.
“We have asked Henry to now take on a role as director of rugby as we look to try and bring through our other coaches Jonny MacDonald and
Andy Buist and successfully recruit players but also to try and raise the level of the club again,” said 37-year- old Quinn, who will replace long-
serving Welshman Mike Lewis as Dragons’ chairman.
“His role on the committee will be invaluable to us in terms of taking the next step as a club. Henry will still be very much involved in coaching
the side but he will start to add his experience in other areas.
“His impact as a leader this year can be defined no better by the fact we have eight players (the most of any club) representing the UAE in Maylasia (at the Asia Rugby Championship) this week.”
Briton Quinn, a former UAE international who represented the Emirates in the 2011 Asian Five Nations, their first tournament as a stand alone
Test nation, heaped praise on Lewis and Hart, both of whom will remain part of the club’s fabric.
“It’s an incredible honour to have been chosen as chairman for the forthcoming season,” said Quinn, who has lived in the UAE for 14 years.
“Mike Lewis has done a fantastic job steering the club through some choppy waters and deserves a huge amount of credit along with Paul Hart for bringing Henry Paul to us and for being part of a turnaround at the club last year.
“Three finals and a trophy is a great achievement from where the club was two years ago having lost such a core group of players. I think the
roles of Henry and myself are to take that one step further next year and build on some great foundations.”
Dragons will celebrate 25 years as a club in 2017/18 and despite definite progression with Paul at the helm, Quinn says more strides need to be
taking and he is excited for the future.
“In terms of next season I think it’s going to be tougher than ever due to the fact that the landscape of rugby in the Gulf has changed
dramatically in such a short space of time,” added the former Dragons and Dubai Exiles player.
“The players are of such a high standard across the board now and the coaching set-ups are superbly organised and there really isn’t a huge gap
between the top and bottom teams.
“Our job in the off-season is to look at recruiting more players as people move on and out of the rugby scene but also to try to build a club that
can offer something for all levels and be able to support that administratively as well as on the field.
“Player welfare is more important than ever these days. We also want to work with the other clubs to continue to raise the standard of rugby
here in the Middle East. For the good of rugby I think it’s vital we all work closer together.
“This year marks Jebel Ali Dragons’ 25 years as a club in the Gulf so we have a lot planned on and off the field which is great to look forward to. We have recently rebranded our logo, are launching a new website and had a new club house built for us which is all exciting stuff.
“We have again been supported by Hesco, our title sponsor, who have committed to the club long term. It’s vital for any club’s survival that
companies continue to support rugby in the region and we are incredibly thankful for that.
“The season will be upon us in no time no doubt so we will have a busy summer getting ourselves in shape for when it all starts again.”