Similarly, to the Newcastle Knights, the St George Illawarra Dragons were left in the lurch after the departure of legendary coach Wayne Bennett and experienced some seriously lean years, having to contend with an aging and overpaid roster.
However, off the back of a major recruitment and retention overhaul led by club legend and now head coach Paul ‘Mary’ McGregor and Director of list management Ian Milward, the Dragons have assembled a roster stocked full of representative talent.
While the squad the Red V currently have at their disposal is impressive, this came about as a result of a large-scale revamp in Wollongong, with more than a few favourite sons of the club forced out the door.
Here are the top 10 players the Dragons have let go, not re-signed or released since 2000.
The players have been listed in accordance with the contribution they made whilst at the Dragons as well as considering the influence they have had at the clubs they left the Dragons for.
10. Matt Prior
An Illawarra junior having plied his trade with the Thirroul Butchers, Matt Prior forged a reputation as a reliable utility for the Dragons in the late 2000s featuring regularly off the bench, in the second row and also providing cover in the centres.
A constant figure for the Dragons following his debut in 2008, Prior went onto feature for his junior club on 121 occasions over his six-years, which included the 2010 premiership triumph over the Roosters.
Having been named in the 2011 “Blues in waiting” squad by Ricky Stuart, Prior was clearly earmarked for higher honours. However, the Dragons did not see eye to eye with Stuart, opting against re-signing Prior when his contract expired at the end of 2013.
He was subsequently snapped up by local rivals the Sharks and has had his game completely transformed since arriving in the Shire thanks to ex-head coach Shane Flanagan. Having been a handy edge utility at the Dragons, Prior was quickly transitioned into the front-row after joining the Sharks, utilising his height, speed, and power to great effect in contact.
Since this move, Prior has become a perpetual force for the Sharks in the number 10 jersey, going onto be one of the unsung heroes of their 2016 premiership triumph. While he did not regularly receive plaudits from fans and commentators alike, his consistent form was noticed by Blues coach Brad Fittler and was subsequently handed his State of Origin debut for Game II of the Blues victorious 2018 series.
Having not received major fan-fare when he joined Cronulla, Prior has been one of their best signings in the last decade, averaging over 100 running metres per game in all but one of his five full seasons since joining the club. A quiet achiever, Prior typifies the no-nonsense mantra that ex-coach Shane Flanagan has instilled in the previously perennial underachievers.