IN some dark corner of the internet there may well be somebody claiming that the Dragons family are all shape-shifting lizards.

Since the Welsh Rugby Union takeover in May 2017, the situation at Rodney Parade has been one where conspiracy theories can flourish.

The Dragons needed to be bailed out and the governing body felt compelled to step in.

The WRU got a good deal when buying the historic ground from Newport RFC but they’d rather not have control of the Dragons.

It has been a costly, time-consuming business, hence they welcomed the move from chairman David Buttress, who was brought in by the Union in September 2017, to return to private ownership.

Were it not for the coronavirus crisis then the deal would already have been signed and sealed.

The plan is for a consortium to take over the Dragons and for the region to play at Rodney Parade on a long-term lease.

The north end of the nine-acre site will be retained and developed by the WRU with funds distributed between all the professional sides and revenue from the stadium area kept by the Dragons.

The deal is in everybody’s best interests, ensuring all four regions have the same ownership structure.

The Union can concentrate on other matters and let others worry about the pennies and pounds being spent in NP19. The Dragons can be in control of their own destiny and make their own decisions while the other three will be free from any lingering feelings that it’s a stitch-up in the east.

The frequent call used to be ‘shut down the Dragons, send the side north’ but there are signs of progress under Dean Ryan.

South Wales Argus:

That doesn’t sit well with some, who would rather the Rodney Parade region knew their place at the bottom of the pile, patting them on the head and claiming their two wins a season.

But the WRU ownership and their spending on the Dragons ensures it’s easier to smell a rat than give credit to the hard work that has gone into taking baby steps in year one under Ryan.

Let’s not get carried away in these early days, the region is making progress but there’s nothing for the others to be jealous about just yet.

The final two rounds of the PRO14 could mean that the Dragons still finish fourth of the Welsh teams below the Ospreys (just like they could still leapfrog Cardiff Blues into second behind the Scarlets).

The squad has been strengthened but it’s still the thinnest of the quartet, an injury away from a real headache.

But the straight-talking, clarity and candour from Ryan gives reason for optimism; he hasn’t promised the world or used Downing Street bluster, deflection and distraction.

Achievements were ticked off – a first PRO14 win on the road for over four years, rousing festive derby wins, qualification for the Challenge Cup quarters – but the director of rugby ensured that every bit of praise and encouragement was followed by a douse of caution and a work-on.

The Dragons may well finish above the Ospreys in 2019/20 but they are still Wales’ fourth team and it will take more than one season to change that.

But Ryan’s clarity and organisation is giving hope about gradually closing the gap and then changing the order.

Independence is key to delivering that and it’s also key to shutting down the noise about how progress is being achieved.

Plenty of tea was spat out on Monday when new boy Nick Tompkins spoke about why he opted for the Dragons on a year-long loan from Saracens.

South Wales Argus:

“It was refreshing when I spoke to Dean, the way we talked was honest, open and refreshing,” said the Wales centre.

“They just spoke differently and it sounded more like what I’ve been used to than other clubs. That’s really because of Dean and, moving forward, what he’s doing with the team.

“There were three year-long loan deals and it came down to security, what the prospects were and how exciting things could be.

“I came to the decision of the Dragons because of where we can take this group and how they are being coached and led. I’m definitely positive I’ve made a really good choice.”

The comments let to guffaws given that the region themselves said when announcing the arrival of the centre that “the loan move has been finalised with the full support of the WRU and Wales national coaching team”.

Wayne Pivac doesn’t want Tompkins playing Championship rugby for a year at Saracens but the centre will probably be lucky to hit 10 regional outings if the post-coronavirus Test schedule is busy.

Is it any wonder the theory that there was no choice to be made and that the WRU pushed him towards their club because of the financial aspect of the loan sounds more plausible than the exciting challenge at Rodney Parade?

That Tompkins’ words and reasoning has riled so many will add to the delight for many Dragons fans yet the situation has also highlighted the need for the completion of the deal to go private.

The Dragons are getting better despite still having the smallest budget of the quartet but the WRU ownership, seen as a hindrance rather than a benefit by Ryan and Buttress, means they aren’t getting the praise deserved for slow and steady improvements.

Going private will put the pressure on the Dragons to deliver financially, commercially and on the field.

Do that and they can bask in it with nobody able to glance with mistrust towards Principality Stadium.