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Dragons finally letting Lomax leave - and his exit might start a feeding frenzy across the NRL

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2nd April, 2024
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Sometimes, a player comes onto the open market that sets the NRL’s transfer rumour mill into overdrive, and with Zac Lomax finally getting his wish to leave the Dragons at the end of the year, we might be about to see a rare example of it happening midyear.

More typically, we see this in the off-season when there’s no footy and thus little to talk about beyond player movements.

Addin Fonua-Blake’s request to leave the Warriors in order to be closer to his family sparked a feeding frenzy among Sydney clubs, with big men of the calibre of the Tongan international rarely coming to market.

Eventually, Cronulla landed their man, coming from the clouds to blow the Dragons, Bulldogs and Tigers out of the water.

Jarome Luai’s departure from the Panthers had a similar effect, with clubs towards the bottom of the ladder scrambling to make their pitch to an elite playmaker in a marketplace with very few opportunities to recruit a half.

Lomax isn’t quite in that bracket, but the consistent threat that he might elevate himself has been there ever since he entered in the NRL back in 2018.

Though he has not yet played rep footy, the Temora-born centre is just 24 and has long been touted as an Origin level talent, and played under-18s for NSW before being called up to the year-end PM’s XIII squad after debuting in the NRL at just 18.

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Lomax will crack 100 games in first grade this month, all going well, and was already thought to be worth an $800,000 contract at the Dragons.

Having moved to the wing, he has been revitalised in 2024 and is playing is best footy in years, which can only strengthen his hand in negotiating.

For him, it’s a case of where he wants to go rather than whether anyone will take him. He’ll have his pick.

Given his time in the NRL has been spent exclusively with the Dragons, who have largely underperformed, and under coaches who have not prioritised attacking football.

Should he move to somewhere with a stronger base and a different mindset, it’s entirely possible that Lomax could take the next step up into the ranks truly elite outside backs.

So where could that be?

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The most obvious landing spot is Parramatta, who were linked with him prior to the announcement that he was to leave and had, if rumours were to be believed, been planning a swap deal to convince St George Illawarra to let their man go.

The Eels desperately need a strike outside back: while they have Will Penisini and Maika Sivo on one edge, the other side is a clear weakness for Brad Arthur.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - JULY 20: Zac Lomax of the Dragons greet fans after winning the round 21 NRL match between St George Illawarra Dragons and Wests Tigers at WIN Stadium on July 20, 2023 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Zac Lomax. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

Unless they can unload a few bodies, however, their salary cap situation might make it hard to find cap space for an $800,000 deal.

The Roosters have no such issues. They need an OB to cover for the losses of Joseph Suaalii to rugby union and, potentially, Joey Manu as well. Daniel Tupou is also set to leave, as is Angus Crichton in the back row.

Cash won’t be a problem for Trent Robinson and, with three of this year’s back five unsigned beyond this year, he needs to reinforce quickly.

Newcastle will also surely enter the market. They have Bradman Best on one edge but Dane Gagai, currently playing in the centres, is not signed beyond 2024 and, at the age of 33, could be convinced to shift to the wing to allow Lomax to join.

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The Dragons themselves are in discussion with Sunia Turuva, and while Penrith tend to promote from within and have brothers Jesse and Casey McLean coming through, they might take an interest in a player of Lomax’s calibre.

Melbourne have recently got Justin Olam off their salary cap by moving him to the Wests Tigers and, with Nelson Asofa-Solomona heavily linked with St George Illawarra and their two incumbent centres, Nick Meaney and Reimis Smith, off this year, they could find space and cap to make Lomax an offer.

Up in Queensland, the Broncos likely don’t have the cap space and the Dolphins recently added two centres in Herbie Farnworth and Jake Averillo.

The Titans could be in the game given long-standing issues in the outside backs and the Cowboys might well have space and inclination should they look beyond current big earners Chad Townsend and Kyle Feldt.

Souths, Manly and Cronulla would struggle to find cash and likely don’t need centres, Canberra and the Warriors are flush in that position and the Tigers and Bulldogs have other priorities having just signed Justin Olam and Stephen Crichton respectively.

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