The positional swap of St George Illawarra Dragons' outside back Zac Lomax has been one of the big talking points coming into the 2024 season.

A prodigiously talented centre, Lomax has often been talked about as a future State of Origin player.

And it's not hard to see why. On his day, he is close to unstoppable. He breaks tackles for fun, has excellent passing and offloading ability, and has the footwork to match.

Defensively, he has also had nice moments throughout his career to date.

But consistency has been the key problem at this point in the young centre's career. Despite playing 94 NRL games, it's difficult to remember a time when Lomax has held strong form for long periods at a time.

The 24-year-old struggled particularly throughout the 2023 campaign, the first half of which was under Anthony Griffin.

Plenty of Lomax's issues could well be attributed to Griffin's coaching and the mind-numbing decision which saw he and fellow centre Moses Suli change sides of the field during the first half of last season.

NRL Rd 4 - Eels v Dragons
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 03: Moses Suli of the Dragons passes as he is tackled during the round four NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the St George Illawarra Dragons at CommBank Stadium, on April 03, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

In analysis conducted by this masthead in early May last year, it was proven beyond all reasonable doubt that the decision just didn't work. Suli and Lomax both went backwards, not just in attack but also in defensive outputs.

Lomax was eventually dropped in the final weeks of Griffin's tenure, but recalled, with interim coach Ryan Carr correcting the dismal decision and playing Suli and Lomax back on their correct sides of the park.

Things improved for Lomax during the second half of the year, but still not to the extent needed, with moments of madness continuing. Most notable were those flick passes over the sideline, which almost became a running joke among fans of other clubs.

According to all reports, this led to new Dragons' coach Shane Flanagan sitting down with Lomax during the off-season and explaining to him that he wasn't among the top 20 NRL centres by the numbers.

Undoubtedly, for a player on what is believed to be around $800,000 per year, that is a ridiculously tough pill to swallow, but it's also a tough thing to grasp for the club who have poured so many resources into the centre.

While Flanagan had spoken about the potential of Lomax transitioning into the fullback role this season, it was eventually determined he would start the year on the wing. Tyrell Sloan, who, like Lomax, has struggled for consistency during his short NRL career to date, clung onto the number one jersey to start the new campaign.

While there is no guarantee it will stay that way for the entirety of the campaign, there have been plenty of rumblings out of the Dragons around the future of Lomax.

The centre-turned-winger reportedly wants out and has other clubs interested. The Sydney Roosters and Parramatta Eels are both on the lookout for new outside backs. It's almost certain that other clubs will enter the fray for someone with Lomax's talent throughout the year, and his Round 1 performance is sure to only heighten the question around his future.

NRL Rd 1 - Titans v Dragons
GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 09: Zac Lomax of the Dragons is congratulated by team mates after scoring a try during the round one NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and St George Illawarra Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium, on March 09, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

For all the speculation though, Lomax can't go anywhere without the blessing of the Dragons given his contract, and they have made it abundantly clear that it won't be happening this year, although have refused to rule out the prospect of a release heading into 2025 and beyond.

But then, Lomax took his move to the wing as well as he could have in a Round 1 win over the Titans.

Widely tipped to ‘win' the wooden spoon this year, the Red V played one of their best games in years, putting the Titans to the sword in a beatdown during the opening round. Lomax was without doubt one of the best on the park in his new position.

Scoring a try, Lomax came up with an awesome 266 running metres, a couple of line breaks, some tackle breaks, an offload, and was heavily involved in the contest while also holding up his end of the bargain in defence.

The jury is still out on his centre replacement Jack Bird, who Shane Flanagan views as just that - a centre rather than a utility - but he wasn't a disappointment in the Gold Coast clash.

What Lomax brings that the Dragons haven't had in recent years on the wing is a high rugby league IQ, some flashy moves and, judging by the opener, a player looking to get involved at every opportunity.

That - getting involved and making big metres - is what Mikaele Ravalawa has turned himself into on the other side of the park. Still, any successful side has two metre-eating wingers who can hold their own up in other elements.

You only need to look at what the Penrith Panthers have done in recent years, with 2023 seeing fullback Dylan Edwards and wingers Brian To'o and Sunia Turuva all in the top ten for running metres across the season.

2021 NRL Grand Final - Panthers v Rabbitohs
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Dylan Edwards of the Panthers runs the ball during the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

That is the sort of thing the Dragons need to be successful given they are still likely to be let down in some other areas of their game, even with improvements in fitness and structure under the coaching of Flanagan, who is the best boss at the club since Wayne Bennett left at the end of 2011.

That doesn't mean he is perfect, and there will still be bumps in the road for the Red V, but Lomax on the wing after a week looks a better prospect than Lomax has in the centres.

Given Lomax's reported frustration, there is still plenty of water to pass under the proverbial bridge here, but that didn't carry over to his game. With more performances like Saturday's, there is no reason he can't be a serious game-breaker for the Dragons this year.

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