Following the devastating news that Tariq Sims won’t return for the St George Illawarra Dragons this year after a judiciary charge ruled him out for the final four weeks, the Red V could be about to lose another senior player earlier than expected.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports veteran rake Andrew McCullough is considering retirement from the NRL, despite having one more year to run on his contract with the club.

NRL Rd 1 - Warriors v Dragons
SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 12: Andrew McCullough of the Dragons passes the ball during the round one NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Sunshine Coast Stadium, on March 12, 2022, in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The news comes amid reports the Dragons have been chasing the likes of Tiger Jacob Liddle and Sydney Rooster Sam Verrills with a clear focus on the No.9 role, and McCullough can sense a change coming.

The 305-game NRL veteran made his debut in 2008 and has played for the Broncos and Knights before moving to the Dragons in 2021.

The Herald reports the Dragons may have lost their pursuit of Verrills, with the Roosters rake likely to join the Titans from 2023 should they buy-out the remainder of his contract with the Bondi club – a likely occurrence with Brandon Smith on his way to the Tri-colours.

McCullough has been reliable for the Dragons but his inability to break a game open has drawn the ire of club critics, who lambasted the cut-price mentality that went into McCullough's signing.

Andrew McCullough five years ago was a top five player,” said Paul Crawley on NRL360 less than a month ago.

“(Coach) Griffin brought him to the club over Cam McInnes and I understand that – he got him for a far better deal than McInnes would have stayed for – but McCullough is done.

“As an NRL hooker that’s going to get you into the top four, deep into the finals, he ain’t going to get you there. He hasn’t got the speed, he hasn’t got the gamesmanship to get you there anymore.”

The news comes at the end of a disappointing week for the Dragons. It started with the news that assistant coaches Mat Head and Peter Gentle had been let go of the club, continued with the news that James Graham was ‘blindsided’ as he was let go from his multi-faceted role at the club, and was topped off by the news that Sims had played his last game in the famous Red V after a horrific collision with Connor Tracey on Saturday night.

The loss to Cronulla was the Dragons’ fourth in five games, leaving them in 11th place on 20 points, four points behind eighth and all but out of the finals race.