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Su'A set for switch as Dragons look at recruits to replace Vaughan

The Dragons are close to securing Queensland Origin back-rower Jaydn Su'A for next season as other potential short-term signing options – starting with Warriors prop Jamayne Taunoa-Brown – are explored to replace sacked prop Paul Vaughan.

NRL.com understands that Su'A is yet to formally sign off on a three-year Dragons offer.

But the club is increasingly optimistic about landing the Rabbitohs forward after South Sydney made clear to him they could not entertain a long-term extension due to salary cap pressure.

Neither club has made official comment on Su'A's future. It's understood though that the Rabbitohs have little interest in releasing the 23-year-old this season as he returns to Wayne Bennett's line-up this weekend.

St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin and his football staff have spent Wednesday planning how to divide up the 12 individual match suspensions across the next month that came out of last week's COVID-breach.

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Vaughan's contract termination has left the Dragons with two roster spots to fill before August 2, and a sizeable salary cap cache to do so given rival clubs are already contributing more than $1 million in wages to the likes of Jack Bird, Andrew McCullough and Josh McGuire among others.

NRL.com understands the Red V has sounded out the Warriors about a short-term transfer arrangement for Taunoa-Brown to join in coming weeks, before returning to the Kiwi-based side once St George Illawarra's suspended players are available again.

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The Warriors are yet to agree to the proposal, but are open to the suggestion given Taunoa-Brown has not played since round 12 and Matt Lodge has just arrived at the club.

The Warriors would insist Taunoa-Brown return to the club given he is contracted until the end of 2022.

A formal loan system, like in soccer, is not in place under current NRL contract rules.

But previous player swap arrangements have been approved for the likes of Harry Grant and Paul Momirovski, and the Warriors last year to provide relief after their COVID-19 forced relocation.

Longer-term, the Dragons will have Vaughan's estimated $750,000 salary to target a marquee replacement.

Storm co-captain and NSW Blues call-up Dale Finucane looms on the horizon, though the club is yet to engage in any new talks.

As revealed by NRL.com last week, Griffin met with Finucane earlier this year as they awaited an outcome in Jack de Belin's criminal trial, only to rule themselves out of pursuing the off-contract middle when de Belin became available again.

Vaughan's exit has since changed the landscape at the Red V.

Several clubs remain in conversation with Finucane's management about his services, with North Queensland tabling a two-year offer, Wests Tigers progressing to a similar point and Melbourne loath to lose him but juggling their own salary cap pressures.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy recently said of Finucane: "I've never seen anyone that sets a better standard on and off the field than Dale", with his leadership and standing an obvious recruitment drawcard.

More pertinently, the Dragons are working through how to split the one-game suspensions handed to Bird, McGuire, Blake Lawrie, Corey Norman, Kaide Ellis, Matt Dufty, Gerard Beale, Josh Kerr, Daniel Alvaro, Tyrell Fuimaono, Zac Lomax and Jack de Belin over the next month.

The NRL has indicated to the club those suspensions must be spread over a minimum of two games, and a maximum of four, with the governing body to sign off on how the Dragons manage their playing stocks.

Manly looms as the most formidable challenge after a round 18 bye, with the club to take a "balanced approach" to how many of the 12 suspensions they serve in that game.

Critical late-season clashes against the Gold Coast, South Sydney and Canberra follow, and the Dragons will make a call each week on how many banned players sit out, taking into account week-to-week injuries and potential judiciary implications.