The Dragons could find themselves limited to the number of available recruits in the league following Warriors’ Leivahu Pulu’s decision to move back home to New Zealand, reports Brad Walter on NRL.com.
St George Illawarra have two roster positions open on their list and may find it difficult to attract players into the club as many rival sides begin to favour loaning players out instead.
Pulu, who flew home to be with his pregnant wife, Tolina after she was involved in a car accident, has allowed the Warriors to replace the bullish forward with a loan player from a fellow NRL side.
The Warriors were able to sign Penrith’s Jack Hetherington on a loan deal from Sydney to replace Pulu, after the Roosters recalled Poasa Faamausili to cover a number of injured players on Sydney’s list.
The Dragons had just the 23 players available for Friday night’s away clash to the Raiders after releasing James Graham and Isaac Luke.
Paul McGregor’s side, along with all NRL clubs, must have a 29-man roster submitted by August 3, making the deadline a high priority for Dragons list management director Ian Millward.
The Dragons find themselves keen on a number of forwards but seem to be matched by the Warriors’ need for similar stocks.
Clubs will play 18 consecutive games following the NRL’s decision to move State of Origin to the end of the season, meaning a heavier reliance on depth with no scheduled bye rounds.
“If you look at the injury toll at the weekend across the NRL, it has sort of put a full stop in a few areas where it is hard to recruit for this season right now because of clubs not being willing to free up players because of the 18 games straight,” McGregor said.
“We are only seven games into it now and there has been a high number of injuries.”
The Warriors already hold the longest casualty list in the league and will now be without Pulu for an extended period of time, with the forward set to undergo 14 days of quarantine before he returns to his wife in Auckland.
“Vaha’s [Pulu’s] wife and baby are okay but he just wants to be closer to them, naturally,” Warriors CEO Cameron George said.
“He has also told us that if they can get exemptions he will go back. It is really tough on everyone – the families and the players – and we have to try to see if we can get that end result.”
Hooker Karl Lawton revealed Pulu had addressed the playing group of his decision to return home after contemplating the move for some time.
“That was definitely the icing on the cake. I think once the accident happened it was silly not to shoot back home. He was a bit shaken up, as you would be,” Lawton said.
“We had a meeting yesterday and he just said everything that was happening. All the boys are happy for him to leave. No-one is going to stand in his way.”