Dragons coach Anthony Griffin has confirmed veteran forward Tariq Sims has been given permission to negotiate with rival clubs and potentially leave next year.
Speaking after a season-closing 20-16 loss to South Sydney - with a concussed Sims taken to hospital "in a pretty bad way" and needing treatment for a nasty lip laceration - Griffin said the club had allowed the 31-year-old NSW Origin second-rower to explore his options.
Sims, a Gerringong junior who joined St George Illawarra in 2016, is signed to the Dragons until the end of 2022.
"As I understand, there was a question asked [by Sims' management] about wanting to extend [his contract]," Griffin said.
"That might still happen, but at the moment, we're not looking that far ahead with Tariq. Nothing's ever off the table. It was just a conversation, as I understand it, that was had a couple of weeks ago.
"As I understand it, at the moment they've given him permission to have a look around ... he's been really good [in handling the news].
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"He's a senior player and he's on-contract next year. [Whether he stays is] something, I suppose, for both him and his management to have a chat about," the mentor concluded.
Sims was involved in a sickening head clash with former teammate Jacob Host in the 46th minute at Sunshine Coast Stadium
"He's got a really bad laceration to his lip. I just saw the photos of it, the doctor showed me. He obviously was concussed but he's got a really bad laceration to his lip," Griffin said.
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Saturday night's result marked a club-record eighth-straight defeat for the Dragons, who could finish as high as 12th or low as 13th.
They were in the top eight heading into the bye in round 17 but their infamous barbecue incident ultimately cruelled their chances.
"It's just been a really hard period," Griffin said.
"There's been a lot of things. We had to rest players [over] four weeks, we've lost a lot of experience out of our side - these aren't excuses at all - with [Ben] Hunt and [Andrew] McCullough not being there [due to injuries] for the last three or four weeks.
"We've put ourselves in positions to win games. Even tonight, which didn't look likely when we were down by 20.
"But the disappointing thing – and the lesson we've got to learn over the off-season - is everything we've done, we've done to ourselves, whether it be off the field or on the field.
"We're in control of that, we're not making excuses or being victims about it, but it's disappointing and we'll deal with that in the off-season."
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However, Griffin is optimistic about the second year of his tenure, saying the club has recruited strongly for 2022 and beyond while talented young players are beginning to flourish.
Five-eighth Corey Norman has now finished his time in the Red V but Griffin doesn't think the 30-year-old is a spent force.
"As he's getting older, he's worked a lot harder … I think he'd do a job somewhere else. He's still got something to offer," he said.
"I know he's got a couple of opportunities in England and I think there are a couple of clubs having a look at him here.
"He's done his job for our club and we wish him all the best, but I certainly think he's got another year or two in him."