The Dragons Have Hit The Open Market For NRL Prop To Replace Russell Packer

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The Dragons Have Hit The Open Market For NRL Prop To Replace Russell Packer

St George Illawarra have declared their desire to sign an established front-rower off the open market as a replacement for departing prop Russell Packer.

Packer last month announced a move to the Wests Tigers at the end of the season, and the Dragons are keen on luring a similar asset to the club next year.

However Dragons recruitment boss Ian Millward insists he won't be in a rush to get one after only signing Paul Vaughan - arguably the buy of the season this year - late last October.

Current off-contract front-rowers include David Gower, Tim Grant, Charlie Gubb, Jeremy Latimore, Joe Ofahengaue, Sam Tagataese and Josh Starling.

"We're very active out in the marketplace at the moment to replace Russell. We also feel we've got some really good emerging players in our ranks," Millward told the club's website.

"Obviously Blake Lawrie played Junior Kangaroos this year. Josh Kerr played for Queensland under-20s last year, and both are going really well in lower grades.

"But we do want to get a front-rower.

"We're looking at all of our options there but we'll be patient. We were patient with Paul Vaughan before we signed him. If we're patient, we'll get the right player."

While Millward is willing to splash the cash to stiffen his engine room, he is adamant the club will only look internally to fill the looming departure of Josh Dugan in the summer.

Jai Field has been tabbed as a future fullback, as has fellow youngster Matt Dufty.

"Obviously people are going to speculate when you're losing a player like Josh Dugan, but our plan always has been to fill that void internally," Millward said.

"We feel we've got numerous opportunities and options to replace someone internally. Anyone hearing that we're in the market for certain fullbacks from other clubs, that's not the case."

Millward also revealed the club had tabled an offer for injured halfback Drew Hutchison, who was pencilled in to start the year in the No.7 before suffering a season-ending knee injury.

A deal is also on the table for the versatile Kurt Mann to remain in Wollongong, where Millward hinted Mann could develop into a bench utility.

"We're in deep negotiations. When we say deep, we know they've been really positive from both parties at the moment," Millward said.

"He's pretty important to us moving forward because he can play so many positions. He can play fullback, wing, centre, six.

"And who's to say he couldn't become a utility player off the bench as a 13 or nine. He's really important to our plans moving forward. We feel we're moving that direction."

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