TARIQ Sims may have played his last game for the Dragons, though coach Anthony Griffin hasn't ruled out the possibility of the Origin veteran remaining in Wollongong next season or beyond.
Sims, who manages his own affairs, is off-contract next season and free to negotiate with rival clubs for 2023 from November 1.
The 31-year-old recently approached the club to gauge interest in a possible extension that would ensure the Gerringong product finished his career with his junior club.
He was instead told he was free to look elsewhere for next year and beyond, with Griffin confirming the call following Saturday's final-round loss to the Rabbitohs.
"His management had a chat to our management a couple of weeks ago," Griffin said.
"As I understand it at the moment, they've given him permission to have a look around. There was a question asked about [Sims] wanting to extend and that might still happen, but at the moment we're not looking that far ahead with Tariq.
"Nothing's off the table, it's just a conversation that was had a couple of weeks ago. He's a senior player and he's off-contract next year.
"That's something for him and his management to have a chat about. That's just something we'll deal with going forward. It's something for the off-season."
It will undoubtedly spark anger in large sections of the Dragons fanbase given Sims' status as a fan-favourite and incumbent NSW Origin rep.
The club took a similar approach to former skipper Cam McInnes in the preseason.
The club's captain and best player over the previous two years, McInnes came into 2021 off-contract and approached the club about an extension with a desire to finalise his future prior to season kickoff.
The Dragons subsequently allowed to sign with arch-rivals Cronulla without making an offer, the club putting the call down to "conflicting timeframes."
It was an approach that raised eyebrows given the club was in negotiations with Andrew McCullough that ultimately brought the former Broncos hooker to Wollongong on a three-year deal.
McInnes suffered a preseason ACL injury prior to round one, ending his time with the Dragons.
The club also told Matt Dufty and Corey Norman in June that they would not be extended beyond this year, the latter playing his final game for the club on Saturday.
It's part of a wholesale turnover of the club's list, with Cody Ramsey and Tyrell Fuimaono the only members of the roster Griffin inherited to have their contracts extended this year.
Former Broncos Josh McGuire and Gerard Beale were brought to club mid-season, while Francis Molo, Jaydn Su'A, George Burgess and Moses Mbye will all join the club next year.
Out-of-favour Sea Eagles centre Moses Suli remains in the club's sights.
Letting experienced off-field cleanskins McInnes and Sims go has raised concerns over a possible leadership void at the club that's had its off-field dramas.
Saturday's defeat was the club's eighth straight loss since the the infamous lockdown-defying barbecue that derailed the clubs season in July - posing questions about the culture within the playing group.
Sims finished the season worse for wear, suffering a severe laceration to his lip in a head clash with former teammate Jacob Host in Saturday's loss.
WARNING GRAPIC CONTENT:
⚠️Graphic Warning⚠️— NRL PHYSIO (@nrlphysio) September 4, 2021
A couple of nasty facial lacerations for Tariq Sims & Will Smith this weekend. Sims was reportedly taken straight to hospital to consult with a plastic surgeon. Smith a good chance of being available next weekend provided he avoids infection pic.twitter.com/ML6am5uhse
It saw him head straight to hospital before fulltime. He took to Instagram share an image of the gruesome injury and to thank fans for their support, posting:
"Thank you for the msgs (sic) of support. Not how we wanted to finish the season to end. Thank you to all the red v supporters that have stood by us through the season."
It will see an off-season of soul-searching at the club, while the hangover is set to continue into next season for McGuire.
The 31-year-old was cited for two seperate careless high tackle charges in Saturday's loss. He's facing one week over a grade one charge and three weeks over a grade two charge, with loading from previous offences leaving him facing a five-week sanction.
It continues a poor run on the suspension front for McGuire, who served five weeks on the sideline earlier this season over a hip-drop tackle in Magic Round.
He was also one of 12 players hit with a one-game suspension for attending the barbecue in contravention of biosecurity protocols.
The club is facing a further off-field headache in October, with Burgess to face court on a charge of malicious damage over an incident in Wollongong two weeks ago.