Zac Lomax
Zac Lomax has been granted a release to leave the Dragons at the end of the season. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Cashed-up Dragons with NRL war chest after Lomax exit

Scott Bailey April 2, 2024

Zac Lomax’s looming exit St George Illawarra exit is set to leave the Dragons as one of the most cashed-up NRL clubs in the market, as Shane Flanagan begins shaping his long-term roster.

Lomax was granted a release from the Dragons on Tuesday, allowing the unhappy winger to walk away from the club at the end of the year.

After the Dragons initially delayed talks on Lomax’s future last month, it had become clear the 24-year-old’s stance on wanting to play centre was not changing.

Zac Lomax
 Zac Lomax has been released from the final two years of his contract. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

Parramatta have already shown an interest in Lomax, while the Sydney Roosters are another club likely to be on the lookout for centres for next year.

There remains a small chance Lomax could be released mid-season this year, however that would require the Dragons to be offered a top-tier player in return.

In securing the release, Lomax agreed to terminate his deal for 2025 and 2026 and forego any payout fee from the Dragons.

It means the Dragons will be able to wipe Lomax’s salary from their cap, even if he cannot command a deal of similar value on the open market.

Lomax is currently the Dragons’ second-highest paid player on a salary of around $800,000 per year.

The club also has quite a number of players off contract, including Jack de Belin who is their next highest paid on a deal of around $700,000.

The Dragons are yet to open talks with de Belin, but if they were to re-sign him it would almost certainly be on a far lower salary.

Another 12 players also remain off contract for next year.

Ultimately it leaves the Dragons as one of the most cashed-up clubs for next year alongside the Dolphins, with the space to make several signing plays.

“As difficult as it is to lose a player as talented as Zac, it does put us in a great position from a salary cap perspective,” Dragons CEO Ryan Webb told AAP. 

“It gives us money we can use across multiple positions in our top 30 where we have needs.

“It also gives (coach) Shane (Flanagan) time and resources to now continue to shape the roster to his wants.”

The Dragons have already identified off-contract Penrith winger Sunia Turuva as an option to replace Lomax, as the Fiji international prepares to talk to rivals.

Sunia Turuva
 Penrith flyer Sunia Turuva has been identified as a possible target for the Dragons. Image by Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS 

Dragons winger Corey Allen will return from injury next year, while centre Savelio Tamale is another rising star at the club,

But the money freed up gives Flanagan the chance to attack several positions.

AAP has been told the Dragons will likely set their sights on another big starting middle, while dummy-half is another priority.

While the current contract market is relatively skinny, the Dragons have been able to scoop up several released players from other clubs in recent months.

On the home front both Jaydn Su’A and Tyrell Sloan remain off contact, with talks continuing on extensions.

Part of St George Illawarra’s set up since his days as an Australian Schoolboys representative in 2016, Lomax had grown increasingly frustrated in recent seasons.

Zac Lomax
 Zac Lomax has played strongly for the Dragons despite being unsettled. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

He was shifted from his preferred spot at right centre early last year by then-coach Anthony Griffin, and subsequently dropped from the team entirely.

He then disapproved of his wing shift this year under Flanagan, despite emerging as one of the form wingers in the competition.

It’s expected he will now remain there for the rest of the season.