The Dragons’ recruitment drive has suffered another major blow as English half Jack Welsby opted against a move to the NRL to extend his deal at St Helens through to 2027.

Welsby, already the best player in the Super League at the age of 22, was heavily linked with both the Dragons and Dolphins, with new St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan making public overtures towards him in recent weeks.

His contract was set to expire in 2025, which would have sparked a feeding frenzy among NRL clubs in a rapidly diminishing halves market.

This extension does not close the door permanently, but it would take a gargantuan fee to convince Saints to part with the man they are now planning to build a team around.

The Warriors paid £700,000 – over a million dollars – in 2013, and anyone looking to prise Welsby out of the Super League would almost certainly have to beat that now.

Indeed, many in England think that the extension has been signed to force NRL clubs to pay a transfer fee, with the player himself perhaps not intending to see out his contract if a good enough offer came in.

For the Dragons, it is a third kick in a week and leaves them scrambling further for a new half.

On Tuesday, they were hit by the double blow of Tom Dearden, one of their major targets, extending with the Cowboys and Junior Amone, their current five eighth, being served with a breach notice by the NRL, starting the process of deregistering his contract following his assault conviction.

In between, key front row target Addin Fonua-Blake was revealed to have rejected a move to St George Illawarra in favour of their great rivals, the Cronulla Sharks.

By admin