Shane Flanagan smacks down Billy Slater claim about Zac Lomax and Ben Hunt at Dragons

The Dragons coach has hit back after a turbulent week.

Shane Flanagan has slapped down comparisons between Zac Lomax's situation and the Ben Hunt saga only hours after Roosters coach Trent Robinson claimed the club won't chase the departing winger. The Dragons announced they would release Lomax early from his $800,000-per-year contract with the winger wanting out at the end of 2024.

The move hasn't come without criticism after Maroons coach Billy Slater accused the Dragons of "double standards" in the wake of their decision considering the club's saga with captain Ben Hunt. The Dragons captain had previously asked for a release so he could move closer to family in Queensland, but the club rejected it on multiple occasions.

Billy Slater and Ben Hunt celebrate and Shane Flanagan watches on.
Shane Flanagan (pictured right) has slapped down suggestions - mentioned by Billy Slater - the club held double standards when it came to Ben Hunt and Zac Lomax. (Getty Images)

On Thursday, Flanagan fired back at reporters after he was peppered with questions on the topic. Reports have suggested Lomax could be headed to a rival club if the right player is offered to the Dragons in return.

But Flanagan has quickly slapped down any chance of a swap. "There is no player swap going on,” Flanagan said. "Zac is here for the rest of the year, I don’t know where all of that has come from. We’ll just move on... and hopefully this is the last time we speak about it."

Flanagan, in his first year as Dragons coach, denied the Lomax and Hunt situations are similar, claiming Maroons halfback Hunt wants to be at the club. And only days after Slater took aim at the club for double standards, Flanagan has hit back.

“It’s completely different,” Flanagan said. “Ben’s got nothing to do with Zac Lomax. Ben wants to be here. Ben will see out his contract and maybe go further. Don’t confuse the issue with Ben and Zac. They are two completely different issues.”

Zac Lomax playing for the Dragons.
Zac Lomax will leave the St George Illawarra Dragons at the end of the season. (Jeremy Ng via Getty Images)

When asked again about why the Dragons opted to grant Lomax and early release from the contract, Flanagan was blunt. “We can’t have people who don’t want to be here,” he said. “That’s the main point.

"We’ve worked hard to turn him around, but it just hasn’t happened.We’ve got to move forward." Flanagan was asked if the dealings with Lomax had been cordial, which the coach replied the two have had plenty of conversations about his future.

“We’ve had a lot of good conversations around it. As you can see with his football, he’s happy to be here and he’s putting the effort in. That’s all we can ask,” Flanagan added. "Zac has made a decision that he wants to leave the club. The club has made a decision to let him go from the last two years. There’s a lot of conversations behind closed doors and we’ll keep them that way. It’s not the first time this has happened and it’s not going to be the last.”

Billy Slater questions Dragons move on Zac Lomax

Hunt was at the centre of a Dragons exit after he wanted to move back to Queensland for family reasons. Although Hunt is still contacted to the Rev V until 2025, having signed an extension in 2022.

Speaking on Nine's The Billy Slater Podcast, Slater 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.


"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."

Billy Slater alongside Ben Hunt and his wife.
Billy Slater compared the situation with Zac Lomax to when Ben Hunt wanted to move closer to family in Queensland. Image: Getty
Ben Hunt celebrates.
Ben Hunt (pictured) wanted out of the Dragons a few years ago. (Jason McCawley via Getty Images)

Trent Robinson denies Zac Lomax interest

Lomax is heavily tipped to move to the Eels in next year with reports he has already met with Parramatta officials. However, there were also suggestions the Roosters could use an outside back in 2024. The club is losing Joey Manu and Joseph Suaalii in 2025.

And Roosters coach Trent Robinson moved to quell the reports and claim the club are not seeking the $800,000 winger. “We’ve got the centres that we want,” Robinson said. “We still need to add a couple of outside backs but not in that price change. We’re not (going after Lomax).”