TRANS-TASMAN PREVIEWS | We've got a look over and made our picks for the opening night of the rep ro...
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The Dragons are close to finalising their 2004 roster with 12 new signings confirmed, including four backrowers, four outside backs, two front row forwards plus three ?triangles?.
Dragons Chief Executive Officer Peter Doust said may have one or two spots left to fill and he hoped to have all negotiations completed later this week.
New Zealand-born Canterbury junior Edwin Asotasi, 19, a 100kg winger and former junior All Black, is one of the four new outside backs, along with Nick Youngquest, John Olzard and Luke Roberts.
Youngquest, 20 (centre/wing), played five NRL games with the Sharks this season and is a Como-Jannali junior; Olzard, 22 (goalkicking winger), played Premier League with Wests Magpies this season and three NRL games with Souths in 2002; and Roberts, 19 (centre), a Coogee Wombats junior, played Premier League with Souths this year
As far as ?triangles? are concerned, Lachlan Russell, 19 (five-eighth), who played Premier League with the Dragons late this season after a knee reconstruction, has signed an NRL contract; along with Wests Tigers players Lincoln Withers and Clint Greenshields.
Withers, 22 (halfback, hooker), has played 50 NRL games (Canberra 4 in 2000; Wests Tigers 46 from 2001-03) and scored 13 tries; while Greenshields, 21 (five-eighth, centre, fullback), has been playing Premier League this season and is yet to make his NRL debut.
In the forwards Stacey Katu, Corey Payne and Sala Fa?logo have agreed to join the Dragons. Katu, 19 years and 98kg, played two NRL games with Souths this season; Payne, 19, played Premier League with the Bulldogs and was recently selected in the junior Kangaroos; and NZ-born Fa?logo, 25 years and 104kg, has been on the Warriors roster.
The most experienced signing is front row forward Nathan Long, 30 years and 100kg, who played only two games with Manly this year since having a shoulder reconstruction. With the year off, Long is fit and raring to go. The former Cronulla-Caringbah junior has played 152 NRL games - 139 for the Sharks (1994-2001), 11 for Northern Eagles (2002) and 2 for Manly (2003).
The other front row forward to sign is David Tangata-toa, 22 years and 104kg, a Sharks Premier League player for the past two seasons. His brother Andrew played for St George.
Players who have re-signed or extended their contracts with the Dragons include Mark Gasnier (2006), Shaun Timmins (2006), Lance Thompson (2006), David Howell (2006), Nathan Blacklock (2005), Brett Firman (2005), Michael Henderson (2005), Ben Creagh (2005), Bryan Norrie (2005), Henry Perenara (2004) and Reece Simmonds (2004).
Negotiations are continuing positively with captain Trent Barrett, who is under contract to the end of 2004, to extend his commitment to the club.
Other Dragons players already under contract for 2004 include Luke Bailey, Mark Riddell, Jason Ryles, Matt Cooper, Ben Hornby, Wes Naiqama, Michael Howell, Mathew Head, Aaron Gorrell, Brent Kite, Dean Young, Ryan Powell, Ashton Sims and Brett White.
Players who will not be with the Dragons in 2004 include John Cross (retiring; 2004 Steelers Jersey Flegg coach), Craig Stapleton (Parramatta), Amos Roberts (Penrith); Chris Leikvoll (England), John Wilshere (England), Chris Nero (England); Dean Byrne (Souths), Ian Donnelly (Manly); Nathan Tutt and Hassan Saleh. Tracie Edmondson Dragons Media and Communications Manager