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Billy Slater rips Dragons over Zac Lomax move as $3 million detail comes to light

The Dragons have agreed to part ways with their wantaway winger at the end of the season.

Queensland's State of Origin coach Billy Slater has accused the Dragons of "double standards" in the wake of their decision to release wantaway star Zac Lomax at the end of the NRL season. The rumblings around the unhappy winger came to a head on Tuesday when news broke that Lomax and the club had agreed to terminate his $800,000 per season contract at the end of this season. Lomax still had two more years to run on the deal after this one but has mutually agreed to terminate the contract, meaning the Dragons won't have to pay him out.

"This provides both Zac and the club with clarity regarding the future, allowing us time to strategise for the upcoming seasons," Dragons CEO Ryan Webb said. "This arrangement enables the Dragons to focus on refining our top-30 roster and utilising additional cap space.

Pictured left to right, NRL legend Billy Slater and Dragons star Zac Lomax.
NRL legend Billy Slater has accused the Dragons of 'double standards' over their decision to part ways with Zac Lomax at the end of the season. Pic: Getty

"While Zac can pursue his future endeavours with another club." Lomax has been left unhappy at being played on the wing instead of his preferred position of centre. The Dragons would consider letting Lomax move before the end of the season, but a suitable replacement would have to be offered back to the club. The 24-year-old winger is now free to negotiate with other clubs.

The club's decision has reportedly left the Dragons with a $3 million war chest to recruit talent, but Slater has taken aim at the move after comparing it to Ben Hunt's situation last year. The Dragons captain requested a release mid-season in 2023 but was ultimately knocked back by the club and remains their skipper and highest-paid player.

Billy Slater questions Ben Hunt saga after Zac Lomax move

Hunt wanted to move back to Queensland for family reasons but is still contacted to the Rev V until 2025, having signed an extension in 2022. Speaking on Nine's The Billy Slater Podcast , the Maroons coach took a swipe at the Dragons after questioning why the situation is different for Lomax than it is for Hunt.

"I remember when Ben Hunt asked for a release at the Dragons everyone was having a go at Ben Hunt and actually having a dig at his integrity ... but then Zac Lomax wants to do it and everyone's like, 'Ah, OK, we'll look at that if we can get a player in return'," Slater said.

The Dragons knocked back Ben Hunt's request to leave the club but have agreed to part ways with Zac Lomax. Pic: Getty
The Dragons knocked back Ben Hunt's request to leave the club but have agreed to part ways with Zac Lomax. Pic: Getty

"For the club to have double standards like that - it's got to work for both parties ... It's a little bit double standards when you're accepting to or you're open to releasing one sort of player ... but you're not going to look into a Ben Hunt situation. What works for one doesn't work for the other at the moment."

One major difference between the Hunt and Lomax situations is their position, with elite halfbacks a rare commodity in the NRL and $800,000 a lot of money for a winger.

Ben Hunt and his wife.
Ben Hunt had said he wanted to be closer to family in Queensland. (WireImage)

Parramatta Eels emerge as frontrunners to sign Zac Lomax

The Eels have emerged as favourites to sign Lomax, with The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that a meeting between the Eels and the player is set to take place on Wednesday. The report states that the Eels are prepared to make Lomax an offer until the end of the 2027 season.

The Sydney Roosters and Melbourne have also been linked with Lomax, with the Roosters set to lose both Joseph Suaalii and Joseph Manu to rugby union after this season, opening up both salary cap space and a potential spot in the centres for Lomax in 2025. The Storm's salary cap restrictions and reported preference to strengthen their forwards leave them less likely to enter the race for Lomax's signature.

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Lomax's release saw him forgo his $800,000 per year salary for the 2025 and 2026 seasons, leaving the cashed-up Dragons with around $3 million to build their roster for next season. Flanagan's side has 13 players off contract for next season including Jack de Belin, who Is their third-highest-paid player on around $700,000. If de Belin extends it would likely be on a significantly lower salary.

It leaves the Dragons, along with the Dolphins, as one of the most-cashed up clubs for next season, with cap space to chase some quality reinforcements. "As difficult as it is to lose a player as talented as Zac, it does put us in a great position from a salary cap perspective," Dragons CEO Ryan Webb told AAP. "It gives us money we can use across multiple positions in our top 30 where we have needs. It also gives (coach) Shane (Flanagan) time and resources to now continue to shape the roster to his wants."

The Dragons have already identified off-contract Penrith winger Sunia Turuva as an option to replace Lomax, with the Panthers only reportedly able to offer the Fijian flyer around $350,000 per season. It's understood the Dragons will set their sights on another big starting middle forward, while dummy-half is another priority.

with AAP