The latest rumour from the player merry-go-round is that Gareth Widdop will return to St George Illawarra in 2021 in a swap deal that will see Corey Norman head to the Warrington Wolves in the English Super League.
While this sounds like a good idea, is it really what the Dragons want?
On the plus side, Widdop has been a success in the NRL, notching up nearly 200 games and around 1000 points. In addition, he has played over 30 international matches and has a proven track record as a leader.
In a team that will lose experience now that Graham has retired and Tyson Frizell is on the move to the Knights, Widdop’s composure under pressure may be just what the Red V need as they try to rebuild. His influence on spine players Ben Hunt, Matt Dufty and Cameron McInnes would be important, as would his ability to aid the development of younger players.
The fact that his arrival would see the departure of Norman is also a positive. Many judge Norman to be inconsistent, however I would describe his performances as consistently mediocre.
From a salary cap perspective, it would be a like-for-like replacement, which is preferable to having to contribute to Norman’s remaining contract for 2021 if he is merely punted from the club.
On the negative side, it could be seen as a step back in that it sees the Dragons failing to utilise their crop of younger halves looking for an opportunity. Specifically, if Widdop returns, presumably for at least two years, one or more of Adam Clune, Tristan Sailor or Jayden Sullivan may move on, leaving no readymade replacement when the Englishman retires.
Further, at age 32 in 2021, it could be argued that Widdop is now past his best. He has had some significant shoulder injuries in recent times and his form since returning to England has hardly been up to his usual standard. Can he still perform at the top level?
Ulitimately though, it’s worth the risk as he is a far better option than retaining Corey Norman.