Corey Norman has just weeks to convince Anthony Griffin that he has a future at the Dragons as they continue a massive roster overhaul to accommodate the development of junior talent.
Cody Ramsey or Tyrell Sloan are likely to wear the No.1 jersey next season after fullback Matt Dufty was this week told he would not be offered a new contract and St George Illawarra also have young guns Jayden Sullivan and Talatau Amone vying for playmaking roles.
Ramsey, 21, will again deputise for the injured Dufty against Wests Tigers on Friday night, while Amone has been named in the No.14 jersey and Sullivan is in the extended 21-man squad, along with fellow playmaker Adam Clune.
Amone, Sullivan, Sloan and the Feagai twins, Max and Mat, were all members of the Illawarra Steelers under 18s team which lifted the 2019 SG Ball Cup trophy.
Griffin insisted the Dragons had no plans to enter the transfer market for Melbourne’s Nicho Hynes or any other player to replace Dufty and he said the decision on Norman would not be influenced by recruitment options.
Griffin focuses on Tigers
"It’s not about what’s in the market for us at the moment, it’s about what we’ve got internally," Griffin said.
"We have got some good halves coming through, but I think Corey has done a great job for us this year.
"We have still got to have a conversation with Corey about what his plans are, and what ours might be, but we haven’t made a decision on his future. That will evolve over the next few weeks, I would think."
Of the 31 players used by St George Illawarra last season, 13 are no longer with the club or won’t be wearing a Dragons jersey next season and a further six remain unsigned, although it is believed second-rower Tyrell Fuimaono is close to finalising a new deal.
The Dragons have 18 players signed for 2022, including former Queensland Origin hooker Andrew McCullough and lock Josh McGuire, who have joined the club this season.
Former captain Cameron McInnes has signed with Cronulla and Dufty is now looking for a new club.
"It is just our succession planning going forward," Griffin said. "We have got some great young kids coming through in Cody Ramsey and Tyrell Sloan and those type of guys. We are not looking to go to the market and make a really big purchase in that position.
"Your salary cap and the management of your roster changes day to day so that might change down the track but we have not offered Matt Dufty a contract so we can go out and spend a heap of money on someone else.
Wests Tigers v Dragons - Round 12
"I just want to make that point clear that there has never been anything off the field that we have had a problem with Matt Dufty, certainly since I have been here and certainly the people who have been here before me back that up.
"We have got to build our list and Matt has made a really good contribution over the period he has been here but obviously, cutting to the chase, we don’t see that going forward on our list and in fairness to him he needed to know that so that he can get on with his life and his career.
"For us, we can go about building our list for 2022 and going forward."
It has to be seen to be believed
Meanwhile, Griffin said Dufty may be fit to return from his shoulder injury in next Thursday night’s clash with Brisbane but if not he was expected to be available for the following match against Canterbury on June 14.
New Zealand international Gerard Beale will play against Wests Tigers after joining the club last week on a training contract, while Brayden Williame has recovered from a calf injury and will replace Max Feagai (HIA) on the wing.
"We just need Gerard to defend well and get comfortable with the way we play, and I am sure he will do his job well," Griffin said.
"He has played nearly 200 NRL games and 12 Tests so he gives us some experience on the right side with Ben Hunt."