SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 25: Josh Morris of the Dragons celebrates with team mate Mark Gasnier after scoring a try during the round seven NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium on April 25, 2008 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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.

Honourable mentions: Brett Morris, Luke Bailey, Trent Merrin, Jamie Soward, Trent Barrett

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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.

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 15: Matt Prior of the Dragons runs the ball during the round two NRL match between the St George Dragons and the Brisbane Broncos at WIN Stadium on March 15, 2013 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)
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5 COMMENTS

  1. Slow news day…

    Firstly J Moz left because he could not get a start in front of Gasnier and then Gasnier left and came back half way through the premiership winning season (Obviously to get a ring) which the dragons didn’t need him. Signed for bihg bucks and screwrfd the dragons by retiring early. (He didn’t retire because of injury).

    The rest such as Pattern, Ennis, Cook left very young. No one knew they were going to go onto better things

  2. Salary cap played a big part in this as did Gasnier with J Moz and Bennett also.

    Another contributor is the youth coming through the system, the Dragons can’t keep everyone (ask Penrith fans they’ll agree)
    and also injuries (Young, Creagh etc)

    The only thing Dragons have got wrong imo is the way they’ve used some of the youth, relied to heavily on the old heads instead of blooding. For example all those times we played De Belin in the halves when younger players would’ve jumped at the chance.
    Cheers

  3. Bennet didn’t want J Moz, didn’t think he was up to it. J Moz did not want to leave. More fool us. Can’t believe Leeson Ah Mau isn’t on the list, awesome forward and how’s he going at the worriers?

  4. Luke Bailey deserves far than an honourable mention, I’d have him at 2 after Fitzgibbon. I’m also surprised Riddell isn’t on the list, he was more of a loss than someone like Kite.

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