Addin Fonua-Blake and Tom Dearden decide NRL futures in huge double blow for Dragons

The Dragons were chasing both players and have wound up with neither.

Tom Dearden and Addin Fonua-Blake, pictured here in the NRL.
Tom Dearden and Addin Fonua-Blake. Image: Getty

The Dragons have missed out on both Tom Dearden and Addin Fonua-Blake in a massive day of signing news in the NRL. The Cowboys announced on Tuesday afternoon that Dearden had re-signed on a five-year contract, before the Cronulla Sharks revealed they'd snared Fonua-Blake on a four-year deal from 2025 onwards.

The Dragons were chasing both players and were thought to be leading the race for Fonua-Blake, who had requested a release from the Warriors to be closer to family in Sydney. The Wests Tigers and Bulldogs had dropped out of the race for the Dally M prop of the year, and the Sharks then swooped in to sign him under the Dragons' noses.

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"On the back of a couple of outstanding seasons, everyone has seen what he is capable of and we look forward to Addin playing a major role for us here at the Sharks," Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said. "Throughout the negotiation process we have been impressed by his attitude, his genuine desire to help make the Sharks successful and to complement and work alongside both those in our leadership group and the young forwards we have coming through our system."

Dragons coach Shane Flanagan had said earlier this week that he was expecting a decision from Fonua-Blake this week. The former Manly prop played for the Dragons in his junior days and Flanagan said he would be an "enormous" signing for the Red V.

Addin Fonua-Blake.
Addin Fonua-Blake in action for the Warriors. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Dragons miss out on Tom Dearden and Addin Fonua-Blake

Earlier on Tuesday, Dearden spurned offers from rival NRL clubs to sign a five-year extension with the Cowboys. The Queensland State of Origin player was being chased by a number of clubs, with Flanagan and the Dragons leading the chase for his signature.

But the Cowboys announced on Tuesday that the halfback is staying put in a major boost for Todd Payten's side. While the terms of his new deal haven't been released, it's believed the 22-year-old received a significant pay rise and could be the NRL's newest million-dollar man.

"This is a great day for our club, locking in one of the most talented young playmakers in rugby league to remain in a Cowboys jersey until the end of the decade," Cowboys General Manager of Football Micheal Luck said in a statement. "Today's announcement finalises what we believe is a solid foundation for our club to build around with Tom, Scott Drinkwater and Reece Robson all locked into long-term deals.

"We were always confident Tom wanted to remain part of our club because he has thrived in our environment. His improvement as a player has been considerable since he first arrived in 2021 and we believe he's only scratched the surface."

Dearden has played 58 games since joining the Cowboys from the Broncos, scoring 22 tries and notching 28 assists. He made his NRL debut for the Broncos as an 18-year-old in 2019 before signing with the Cowboys mid-way through the 2021 season.

His young career was at a crossroads at the time, but he has thrived under Payten in Townsville. Dearden made his State of Origin debut for Queensland in 2022 and starred in the Maroons' series win over NSW.

The re-signing news comes as a bitter blow for the Dragons and new coach Flanagan, who expressed his interest in snaring Dearden's services. Flanagan had also publicly declared his interest in Joey Manu and Fonua-Blake.

"Tommy's very similar to Joey (Manu), in that if he decides I want to test the market ...he knows that we would love to talk," Flanagan told AAP last month. "He's a young half, played Origin. Got the world at his feet.

"He could be the future halfback of this club for another five or six years. It would be silly not to investigate if he's on the market.

"I don't know if he is open to moving, we've spoken, but Tom is a different young kid as well. He doesn't like the fanfare and the media and all that sort of stuff. We'll respect that and when and if the time comes, well we'll do our best."

with AAP

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