LAST summer we were heralding a bright new era for the Dragons but instead we have witnessed something all too familiar. Mistakes galore have been made, now it’s vital the man at the helm is given the chance to learn from them.

Rugby is increasingly reactionary but despite this maddening season at Rodney Parade, one that has got depressingly worse in recent weeks, this is not the time for chopping and changing at the top.

Last weekend was the perfect storm: a horror show at the Southern Kings on the back of deflating losses to Benetton and Edinburgh on a weekend where the Dragons were centre of attention because of PRO14 postponements.

That is a good thing, it meant that this story of woe wasn’t just brushed under the carpet while focus was on the Scarlets’ defence of their title or Cardiff Blues’ push for the Champions Cup or perhaps even the play-offs.

This season has been painful, probably the most painful that I’ve covered, but let’s not fall into the trap of hysterically wanting to rip everything up and start all over again just yet.

Bernard Jackman was brought in as head coach last summer by the Welsh Rugby Union after they took over ownership of the region, the former Ireland hooker bringing an initial bounce and adding to the optimistic feel.

There was always the knowledge that it would still be a tough season for the Dragons but there was the hope that there would be green shoots.

Sadly there has been precious little for the long-suffering supporters to cling onto and they’ve grown fed up from annual declarations of ‘wait until next season’ from coaches past.

Plenty of mistakes have been made and it’s not a happy camp at the moment; one would hope Jackman would do things differently if given the time again.

First, it’s worth reiterating that turning around the Dragons was never going to be an easy task and certain good practices have been put in place that should help in the long term.

But past seasons show that this is not a squad that would be able to challenge for mid-table, let alone the play-offs so a rapid transformation like the one achieved by Richard Cockerill at Edinburgh was never likely.

However, we know that the players on the Dragons’ books at the start of the campaign should have been good enough to achieve a better record than played 27, won 7, drawn 2, lost 18.

Granted, there have been periods when injuries have hit hard but there is enough talent in the squad to be performing much better and not be in a position where they are still hunting a first PRO14 win since September.

Jackman’s squad may not be the strongest but it is stronger than the XVs that the head coach has been fielding.

The reasoning for that has been that this is a unique season before a raft of recruits arrive for Year Two, hence he has given a glut of prospects a chance to experience professional rugby.

The Dragons’ history shows us that this is a mightily risky policy; it may not quite be sink or swim, because the pressure is off, but there is the danger of being tainted by bad experiences.

Flanker Lennon Greggains made his bow in a 52-25 loss at Ulster, hooker Ellis Shipp made his first start in a 54-10 hammering at Leinster, back rower Taine Basham’s sole outing has been in the 47-13 drubbing at the Scarlets and then last week’s 45-13 defeat to the previously winless Southern Kings featured scrum-half Dan Babos, wings Rio Dyer and Jared Rosser, centre Connor Edwards and promising flankers Max Williams and Aaron Wainwright.

Most of those individuals were not born when England travelled to the southern hemisphere in the summer of 1998 on what would become known as the ‘Tour from Hell’.

Clive Woodward was without his frontline players and after opening with a 76-0 loss to Australia endured heavy defeats to New Zealand and South Africa.

There weren’t many survivors from that squad but the tour proved to be an invaluable learning experience for Jonny Wilkinson and Josh Lewsey.

"That experience taught me more in one leap than anything else can, or probably ever will," said the man who slotted the World Cup winning drop goal.

“The intensity of the emotions were massively important to my development. It was a slap in the face at a time when I thought I was getting somewhere and made me realise I had a long way to go."

Jackman must hope that similar experiences prove to be the making rather than the breaking of his young guns, because we all know plenty of examples of players who have dropped away.

One wonders whether the head coach shouldn’t have been so hasty in publicly writing off so many of the squad he inherited; they could have provided value by sheltering the prospects from humiliations.

Sam Beard had a super first season in the Dragons midfield but has been frozen out since returning from a torn pec suffered in round two while Angus O’Brien, Phil Price, Charlie Davies, Rhys Buckley and Pat Howard could all have offered something at various stages.

Even if some of the older, unrated contingent are off to pastures new, surely their professional pride could have helped improve the Dragons’ win ratio?

Jackman has been blunt from the off about not rating certain members of his squad. Arguably his words were harsh but true, but he needed to get a tune out of his charges. The Dragons are paying them, so play them.

Some misguided commentary about the Dragons recent woes is that poor performance is down to a lack of motivation from players who are leaving.

On the contrary, they are on the sidelines and those that have taken to the field are largely on the books for next term. That is worrying.

This season has achieved little apart from demolishing what was there before. It is hard to see any evidence of foundations that have been laid for next season.

It should have been a season where the gradient of improvement was small ready for a big rise but instead the Dragons have gone downhill.

Perhaps a bit more contrition from Jackman, taking one for the team by shouldering some of the blame, would have been advisable to get through to the summer.

Because since the turn of the year it seems like we have been killing time and the supporters deserve better than that.

They have endured too much embarrassment and too little cheer, a situation that makes the Cheetahs game after the Six Nations, the final Rodney Parade outing of the campaign, a huge one.

The season has sapped the morale of the fanbase and they need something to get them through to September, when there can be no excuses.

Jackman has backed himself into a corner and needs to show BIG improvement next year. Just being better than 2017/18 is not sufficient.