Ryles quits Dragons

St George Illawarra prop Jason Ryles has signed a three-year $1.7 million deal to play in the UK Super League with French club Les Catalans.The 29-year-old was allowed to explore other options overseas after incoming coach Wayne Bennett told Dragons officials he was chewing up too much of the salary cap.The Dragons prop has been in solid form and many believe he should be in the NSW team to play Queensland in the State of Origin decider at ANZ Stadium on July 2.Melbourne second-rower Jeremy Smith, who the Dragons have long coveted, is expected to sign at the weekend.Ryles' playing future has long been a source for speculation after the former Kangaroos and NSW State of Origin front-rower was linked to a mid-season switch to the Sharks.Last night, Ryles said it was hard to leave the Dragons, the club he started with in the NRL back in 2000, but said he was determined to lead St George Illawarra to finals success this year."It will be disappointing to leave the Dragons at the end of this season and it won't change my commitment and focus to the club for the rest of this season," Ryles said.While Bennett is understood to be a fan of Ryles, he is believed to be freeing up money to sign Smith and Brisbane winger Darius Boyd.St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust last night said the decision to axe Ryles was not an easy one."It is always difficult to negotiate such arrangements when it involves the early release of a local junior and a player who has played his whole career to date with our club," he said."Whilst this decision was not an easy one, it is of benefit to both parties and we are confident that it won't impact upon our 2008 campaign."Meantime, former Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie has opened the door for discussions with Dragons centre Mark Gasnier after McKenzie confirmed he would coach French rugby glamour club Stade Francais. Gasnier has been mulling over a switch to french rugby.Ryles' departure was last night seen by many as another sign of the emerging threat of cashed-up Super League clubs.Less than a day after the English competition confirmed it would expand from 12 to 14 teams from next season, NRL chief executive David Gallop admitted the drain of talent overseas was increasingly becoming a concern and said the issue would be high on the agenda at a summit of club bosses on Tuesday."It's certainly going to be discussed and it is a concern but there's no magic wand," Gallop said.

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop