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Zac Lomax contract saga deepens at Dragons amid links to Sunia Turuva

Sunia Turuva is reportedly set to sit down with the Dragons as they prepare for life without Zac Lomax.

The Dragons are eyeing up a move for Panthers flyer Sunia Turuva as they prepare for life after Zac Lomax. St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan will reportedly grant Lomax permission to negotiate with rival clubs for 2025 and beyond but the Red V have made it clear they won't be paying any part of his $800,000 per year salary.

Flanagan has reportedly made a shortlist of replacements for Lomax with Dally M Rookie of the Year, Turuva, at the top of that list after putting himself on the open market after negotiations with the Panthers over a new deal fell short of his expectations. The Dragons coach has also met with Wallabies outside back Jordan Petaia about a code switch, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

Pictured left Zac Lomax and right Sunia Turuva
The Dragons are reportedly set to meet with Panthers flyer Sunia Turuva as they prepare for life without Zac Lomax. Image: Getty

Panthers bosses reportedly presented Turuva with a $350,000 per-season deal. The winger is understood to have wanted to stay at the foot of the mountain but is willing to listen to offers from NRL rivals who can likely offer him upwards of $100,000 per season more.

When Ivan Cleary was asked about whether or not he thought Penrith could hang onto Turuva, he said he would love him to remain at the club but said he was "not too sure" about the state of negotiations. The reigning premiers recently re-signed Taylan May and Izack Tago and have reportedly handed Paul Alamoti a new deal beyond 2024. They are also reportedly in the middle of negotiations with hooker Mitch Kenny who has also been eyed up by the Dragons.

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It is unlikely the Panthers will be able to offer Turuva any more than $350,000 a season with the salary cap limitations a real problem for Penrith. The salary cap squeeze at the Panthers saw Luai sign a deal from 2025 with the Wests Tigers, with the five-eighth penning a deal worth more than $1million a season.

The likes of Spencer Leniu (Roosters), Stephen Crichton (Bulldogs), Jack Cogger (Knights) and Zac Hosking (Raiders) all left following Penrith's 2023 premiership triumph. However, the cap situation is still tight with several stars on big-money deals, including Nathan Cleary (approximately $1.3 million per year), James Fisher-Harris ($950,000), Edwards ($850,000), Isaah Yeo ($850,000) and Liam Martin ($750,000).

Turuva, who is without a deal past the 2024 season, is anticipating to field offers worth around $500,000 from rival clubs and is also eyeing a potential switch to fullback. The promise of the fullback position is a carrot that another NRL club could dangle in front of him to lure him away from the foot of the mountain.

Zac Lomax's switch to Parramatta Eels grows increasingly likely

The Dragons are reportedly preparing for Lomax to put in an immediate request for a release to the Eels. Initially, when Lomax approached the Dragons about a potential exit they delayed discussions for four weeks, with the meeting set for after round four.

"The Dragons aren’t going to let him go for nothing this year, and they aren’t going to chip in a significant amount of his wage to go play elsewhere in the next couple years," Michael Carayannis said on SEN. "The Dragons are of the belief that Lomax will ask for an immediate release and the Dragons have no intention to release Zac Lomax immediately."

WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 30: Zac Lomax and Kyle Flanagan of the Dragons celebrate victory during the round four NRL match between St George Illawarra Dragons and Manly Sea Eagles at WIN Stadium, on March 30, 2024, in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
The Dragons are reportedly preparing for Lomax to put in an immediate request for a release to the Eels. (Mark Metcalfe via Getty Images)

However, the Eels are reportedly keen to bring him in immediately but it is reported that the only way he will be allowed to leave the Red V is if they got a 'significant' player in return. "Parramatta are circling, The only way the Dragons would release him this year is if they could get something significant in terms of a player," Carayannis continued. "It does open the door for him to leave at the end of this year and they may not need a player in return, just the fact that if someone is willing to pick up most or all of his $800,000."