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

8. Josh Dugan

After a tumultuous but prolific opening to his career at hometown club the Canberra Raiders, Josh Dugan was sacked by his junior club following the now infamous rooftop drinking session with Blake Ferguson, but that wasn’t enough to deter the Dragons who snapped him up on a short-term deal for the remainder of the 2013 season.

Having forged a reputation as a dangerous ball-running fullback during his time in the nation’s capital, Dugan bulked up substantially in his first pre-season in Wollongong to become the 102 kg behemoth we now know.

Having joined the Dragons when they were consistently down the bottom end of the ladder with an abysmal attack, over the following years Dugan would drag the Red V to many a victory almost single-handedly, with his attacking instincts the only thing keeping the Dragons from the dreaded wooden spoon.

Having joined St George Illawarra as a notorious bad boy, the next five years would go as well as the Dragons' hierarchy and faithful could have hoped, with Dugan becoming a member of Dragons’ leadership group, as well as cementing himself as a regular for both the Blues and Kangaroos at representative level.

Coming off-contract at the end of 2017 and having cemented himself as the Dragons' go-to attacking weapon, in his contract negotiations Dugan was asking for top-line fullback money, whereas the Dragons saw the Tuggeranong junior as a centre, and offered him a contract that they thought reflected that value.

Unable to bridge the gap between the two parties in terms of both monetary and positional desires, Dugan subsequently signed with local rivals the Cronulla Sharks on a four-year $750,000 a season deal, which later came under scrutiny when the Sharks were convicted of salary cap cheating in early 2019.

Ironically, Dugan has gone onto feature predominantly for the Sharks in the centres, the very position he left the Dragons to avoid. Regardless of this, Dugan is no doubt a star player, with his evasive ball-running style making him one of the game’s most damaging outside backs having already made an astounding 53 tackle breaks in 2019.

With the Dragons enduring a slow start to the year and regularly changing their outside back combinations, you can bet that Paul McGregor rues the day he let Josh Dugan walk out the door.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 30: Josh Dugan of the Dragons looks on during the round 17 NRL match between the Gold Coast Titans and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium on June 30, 2017 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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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