avril 23, 2024

NRL news 2024: St George Illawarra Dragons’ Zac Lomax allowed to walk at season’s end; Billy Slater weighs in

3 min read

Billy Slater has accused the Dragons of having « double standards » and recalled the Ben Hunt contract drama as polarising star Zac Lomax prepares to leave at the end of the 2024 season, having been granted permission by the club on Tuesday.

St George Illawarra said in a club statement that the final two years of the talented centre’s contract would be « terminated » and revealed the club would make « no financial contribution » to his 2025 or 2026 seasons.

That allows the $800,000-a-year star « the freedom to explore opportunities with other clubs effective immediately », the club said.

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The Dragons added that they would only consider a release before the season’s end if « a player of considerable standing » was offered in return.

A meeting between Lomax and the Eels is scheduled for Wednesday, according to The Sydney Morning Herald, with Parramatta preparing to offer him a deal until the end of 2027.

Slater whacked the Dragons on Nine’s The Billy Slater Podcast, accusing them of treating Lomax differently to Hunt after the Red V skipper asked for an immediate release during the 2023 season. The Dragons denied the request made by Hunt, who’s contracted to St George Illawarra until the end of 2025.

« I remember when Ben Hunt asked for a release at the Dragons everyone was having a go at Ben Hunt and actually having a dig at his integrity … but then Zac Lomax wants to do it and everyone’s like, ‘Ah, OK, we’ll look at that if we can get a player in return’, » Slater said.

« For the club to have double standards like that — it’s got to work for both parties … It’s a little bit double standards when you’re accepting to or you’re open to releasing one sort of player … but you’re not going to look into a Ben Hunt situation. What works for one doesn’t work for the other at the moment. »

New Dragons coach Shane Flanagan has been playing Lomax on a wing instead of in the centres, which has reportedly left him disgruntled.

Zac Lomax of the Dragons. (Getty)

« By finalising this decision now, it provides both Zac and the club with clarity regarding the future, allowing us time to strategise for the upcoming seasons, » said Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb in the club statement.

« This arrangement enables the Dragons to focus on refining our top-30 roster and utilising additional cap space, while Zac can pursue his future endeavours with another club. »

Lomax’s talent is undoubted — at one stage he was a member of Brad Fittler’s NSW State of Origin squad — but fluctuations in form have frustrated fans and the NRL coaches he’s had: Paul McGregor, Anthony Griffin and Flanagan.

« Zac has consistently demonstrated his talent and dedication to the club, especially in the face of external noise, » Flanagan said.

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« We have full confidence that he will maintain his high level of performance for the remainder of the season, benefiting all those associated with the Dragons. »

Lomax made his NRL debut in 2018 and has since chalked up 97 top-grade games.

The Dragons are placed 13th on the ladder ahead of round five, in which they will face the Knights in Newcastle on Friday night.

They are aiming to score a second win in succession after producing an upset against Manly in Wollongong on Saturday afternoon, defeating Anthony Seibold’s side 20-12.

The struggling club is aiming to reach the NRL finals for the first time since 2018.

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