Boom playmaker Jayden Sullivan has told Dragons coach Anthony Griffin of his desire to continue playing in the Red V as officials prepare to fend off interest from rival clubs with a new offer.
Sullivan, five-eighth Talatau Amone, fullback Tyrell Sloan and outside backs Mat and Max Feagai are considered the future of the club after advancing from the Steelers' 2019 SG Ball winning team to the NRL squad this season.
However, the rapid development of the young stars has given rival clubs a glimpse of the talent pool St George Illawarra boast and, with captain Ben Hunt signed for another two years, some teams believe they may be able to prise Sullivan away.
While the 19-year-old is contracted to St George Illawarra until the end of 2022, rival clubs can open talks with him from November 1 but Griffin indicated ahead of Saturday’s final-round match against South Sydney that the Dragons will not allow that to occur.
"That's just the market, when they come on and play well straight away they get a lot of attention," Griffin said.
Dragons fans should be salivating over this try conjured by two youngsters
"If he wasn't worth anything on the open market we would be concerned.
"It's the same with the kids out at Penrith and they've managed to keep them and keep them happy. I think we'll do the same with our group that are coming through at the moment.
"We had a good chat to him [on Thursday] and he wants to stay at the club, he loves the club.
Sullivan catches the Cowboys defence napping from close range
"We'll enter some talks with our management and his management in the next few weeks I'd imagine."
Sullivan has bulked up by about 7kg since the beginning of the season and will play hooker for the third successive match against Souths but his long-term future is at halfback, where he has played alongside Amone at junior level.
In a sign of the club’s confidence that Sullivan and Amone will be their future scrum-base pairing, halfback Adam Clune was this week released to join Newcastle and Corey Norman will play his final match for the Dragons on Saturday.
"We made some decisions about the future of our roster and I think we are starting to get a team together that we can be confident with next year," Griffin said.
"Our club has got to be playing finals football and that has got to be the goal for next year again. We are all really disappointed, but I think we have set some good standards this year with our football and we have got some really good young juniors coming through.
"We have given them opportunities and they have taken them, and our external recruitment has been really strategic and planned to a point where we know it is going to improve our football team."
The spine combines to hand Lomax a marvellous try
The Dragons have signed Queensland Origin representatives Jaydn Su’A, Francis Molo and Moses Mbye, as well as former England prop George Burgess, while there is another crop of junior talent coming through behind the likes of Sullivan, Amone and Sloan.
"They have always had the talent but once they got the opportunity they have all improved week on week," Griffin said.
"I watched a lot of tape of them when I first got to the club and I watched them training and playing junior reps. I always knew the attributes they had and the raw talent.
Ravalawa finishes some edge to edge footy
"Junior [Amone] has that NRL presence about him already, which has come out and obviously everyone has seen that the last two or three weeks once he has got in his preferred position [five-eighth].
"The way he handled filling in at centre and lock, and coming off the bench when he first come into first grade, was pleasing to see and made everyone sit up and take notice of him.
"I think Sloan is getting better every time we play him. I thought last week was his best game and Sully has done a great job. I was just talking to him yesterday and he probably would have made the team or played more first grade if not for being injured for the first 12-14 weeks.
"It is good to be getting him out there even though he is playing hooker. He's a great player and, as he's shown the last couple of weeks, he can play in a few positions. He's handled the hooking role brilliantly.
"He understands it's a really good opportunity for him, no matter where he's playing, to grow into an NRL player."