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Dragons halfback Ben Hunt.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has confirmed the club will seek to add another forward to their roster once they gain clarity from the NRL about the process for replacing Jack de Belin.

McGregor made the comments after Thursday night’s 34-18 loss to South Sydney highlighted the impact that the absence of de Belin, Tyson Frizell and Korbin Sims has had on the Dragons forward depth.

While Sims will be available for his first Telstra Premiership appearance since joining the Dragons after completing a two-match suspension and Frizell is expected back in two-to-three weeks following surgery for a ruptured testicle, de Belin is sidelined indefinitely.

However, the Dragons want to follow through on the NRL’s offer for roster assistance after applying the new “no fault stand down” policy while he defends a sexual assault charge and McGregor said recruitment head Ian Millward was scouring the market for another forward.

Match Highlights: Dragons v Rabbitohs

That’ll be up to Ian to look what’s available once we find out what we can do,” McGregor said. “First of all we’ve got to know the situation and have a good understanding of it, then Ian will go to work.

“We’ve got a position open in our squad, we’ve only got 29 [players] including Jack.”

Without de Belin, Frizell and Sims, McGregor has been forced to turn to inexperienced forwards Jacob Host and Luciano Leilua to share the right second-row position, while Blake Lawrie started just his second NRL match at lock.

Dragons prop Blake Lawrie.
Dragons prop Blake Lawrie. ©Robb Cox/NRL Photos

Prop Josh Kerr made his NRL debut off the interchange and conceded a penalty and made an error after coming on just before halftime that added to the pressure the Dragons were under as they defended repeat sets near their own line.

While they managed to hold on to a 12-6 lead at the interval, a glut of possession early in the second half led to three quick Rabbitohs tries and St George Illawarra were heading towards a second straight defeat.

McGregor: We won't let Widdop go early

“It was a little bit like last week, we played some good quality footy and we held onto possession so went into the second half half nice and fresh, but we didn’t sustain it,” McGregor said.

“They had six sets to one and scored two tries in seven minutes and the game swung the other way. There’s good there, but it’s not sustained for 80 minutes and that’s the disappointing thing at the moment.

“We’ve got quality and experience missing, but after having a good spell at halftime there’s no reason why the attitude and intent didn’t need to be as good as it was in the first half

“There’s young guys playing longer minutes and obviously that can expose players, but they’re going to be better for it.”

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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