St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin admits he's yet to have an in-depth discussion with Zac Lomax after dropping the one-time NSW selection bolter for Sunday's Magic Round clash with the Tigers.
It's part of a broader selection shake-up that will see skipper Ben Hunt make an in-game shift to dummy-half at the expense of bench weapon Jacob Liddle, who's also copped the selection axe as under-pressure Griffin looks to snap a four-game losing streak.
Lomax was reportedly left filthy with the decision despite being spared an outing in the NSW Cup, with Griffin confirming reports that he's yet to discuss the decision at length with the 23-year-old.
"For Zac, there are some things he needs to work on in his game," Griffin said.
"I'm not going to publicly talk to that, but for me as a coach that comes down to what I think is best for the team and for Zac long term. [There's been] no detailed feedback for that reason.
"My job as a coach is to care for him, particularly at times like this. For any player who gets dropped, it's hard. I do that with the utmost care on a case-by-case basis. It's something I thought needed to happen for him and the team.
"I wanted Zac to have a bit of time to process it, and then we will sit down as coach and player and go through it. I just want him to clear his head and have a week off and then we'll move forward from there."
It's a steep fall for a player who was on the cusp of Origin selection not that long ago. It comes amid struggles with a shift from his preferred right centre position to the left edge, and a dramatic drop in goal-kicking form having been razor-sharp off the tee in his previous five NRL seasons.
Griffin said the latter fact didn't play into his decision, but remained non-committal when asked how long he expects Lomax to spend out of the top grade.
"[Goal kicking] has nothing to do with why he is dropped," Griffin said.
"In the end my decision on Zac comes down to a lot of things, not whether he has moved sides. Wherever you play, you play for the team, and position is not an issue.
"It comes back to performances, and hopefully for his sake it's not for too long. It's not something you have a time-frame on or set remedy. It's just part of football.
"I own a lot of that responsibility as coach, and Zac owns a lot of responsibility as a player. It's not the first time someone has been dropped at our club or any other club.
"At the moment we have to meet and talk and go through it. The process then is getting him back on the field. We will decide what that looks like after we sit down and have a chat."
Griffin also confirmed Hunt will shift to hooker to allow young gun Jayden Sullivan to come on in the halves, despite his skipper having long-stated a preference for playing halfback at club level.
While he conceded Hunt would remain in the halves if he had his way, Griffin said it was a selfless move as his side looks to arrest a losing slide.
"To Ben's credit, when I spoke to him about it, he had already thought about it," Griffin said.
"It is just a sign of the leader he is, he's thinking of what is best for the team. He could have easily turned his nose up at it as someone who is going to be a 300-game halfback.
"He does prefer playing halfback, but he plays hooker for Queensland and Australia, and he plays it very well, so he understands he can play there.
"If I let him pick the team his preference would be halfback, but he understands at the moment, with the people we have around him and coming through, that he can give us a little more leadership by picking the ball up first."
Read more: Lomax axed as Dragons eye sharp turnaround
The move, allowing Sullivan to partner Talatau Amone in the halves, is one a large section of fans have been crying out for, but it remains to be seen whether it's a long-term fix.
"That will come back to performances," Griffin said.
"It's not something where we think he is just going to stay there. The beauty of Ben is he has played [hooker] at the highest level.
"They won a World Cup and Origin series with him playing hooker, so it gives our team options when guys like Sully (Sullivan) and Junior (Amone) are in really good form.
"Jayden Sullivan has done a great job since he went back, his last month of football he has built a lot of form in the NSW Cup. He has improved in a lot of areas that myself and the coaching staff wanted him to improve in.
"It makes it easy for us to say 'we will get you on in the halves' and Ben will spend some time at hooker."
With Griffin's future uncertain, some have suggested the dramatic changes show signs of panic from a coach fighting for his job. It's something the 56-year-old dismissed in typically deadpan fashion, saying the decisions are as much about the long-term as getting a much-needed win on the weekend.
"Do I look like I am panicking?" Griffin said.
"I don't work like that, our coaching staff and players don't work like that. It's not a flippant thing to think 'we need to do something'. We could easily be sitting here with three or four wins over the past month, but that's rugby league, that's the NRL.
"It's been extremely frustrating for us, because we know how hard everyone is working. It's not something we just flippantly think 'if we do this it might work'. It's calculated and measured for everyone's benefit, the players, and the club long term.
"Our club is doing a really good job of that at the moment. This week you're going to have Sullivan, Amone and Sloan playing behind Ben Hunt, you have the two Feagai boys playing together, you have Blake Lawrie who is becoming one of the best props in the league.
"There is an evolution or development happening with our club, and it is going to be a real strong club. Any change that we make is in the best interest of the team for the long term."
The club board is also thinking long-term in its canvas of potential coaches for 2024. It sees the odds on Griffin remaining in the job lengthening with each defeat, but he insists he's not fazed by the speculation.
"I'm just happy doing what I am doing," he said.
"It's a funny business, the NRL, it's a brutal business. I have coached for a long time, I love coaching, I would have been happy with one game. The situation we are in at the moment there's obviously a lot of speculation, but my job is to be part of a team.
"The players need you every week, that's what I am concentrating on. If I start worrying about myself or trying to figure out what someone is writing about me, then I am not doing my job."
Griffin also confirmed Jack Bird will assume goal-kicking duties in Lomax's absence until Sullivan, a recognised goal kicker, takes the field.
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