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Dragons chief executive Peter Doust has confirmed that St George Illawarra back rower Lance Thompson has taken a substantial pay cut so the club can retain Shaun Timmins, Mark Gasnier, and Nathan Blacklock under the salary cap.
Thompson's contract has been extended until the end of 2006.
"Lance has renegotiated his contract and extended the term to take in 2004, 2005 and 2006," Doust said. "But in doing so, there has been a reduction in his remuneration for next season, which gives us a bit of room to move under the salary cap."
The Dragons vice captain was originally contracted at $300,000 for 2004. But it's understood that this figure has been reduced to less than $200,000.
"Lance wants 'Gaz', 'Timmo' and 'Tingha' to stay at the club," said Doust, "but this also ties up his own future past next year.
"Next season was the final year of a four-year contract and it carried a significant monetary value, which he has agreed to reduce."
In a competition where club loyalties are generally regarded as a thing of the past, Thompson's decision has been received as refreshing news. Thompson 25, recently donated $10,000 to the St George Junior League and has indicated that he will only play for the Dragons.
Currently on the sidelines with a broken foot, Thompson has said he hopes to return to the starting line-up in time for the round 22 clash against the Warriors at Kogarah Jubilee Oval.
Meanwhile, Blacklock's manager, Shaun Martyn, has confirmed that the international winger was close to re-signing with the Dragons for another two years. The contract is expected to be finalised Monday night.
In other player movements, prop Craig Stapleton has been linked with Parramatta for 2004, while fellow front rower Chris Leikvoll is expected to end his four year stint with the Dragons following talks the Manly Sea Eagles and British club Salford - Leikvoll is expected to sign with Manly next week. Meanwhile, Sea Eagles prop Nathan Long has met Dragons officials and may be in the red and white next season.