Jason Ryles will not coach the Dragons after all.
The former St George Illawarra player was a strong favourite to be appointed head coach but in a surprising turn of events told the club on Wednesday morning that he was taking up a coaching role with Melbourne Storm instead.
Ryles will sit out the rest of this year before returning to work under Craig Bellamy at Melbourne next season.
It is understood he has agreed a long-term deal with an option to leave after two seasons if he is offered an opportunity elsewhere.
The Dragons had offered Ryles a four-year contract earlier this week.
Ryles abrupt rejection has left the Dragons stunned, with St George Illawarra Dragons CEO Ryan Webb confirming the news.
"Jason notified us this morning that he no longer wanted to be considered for the role," Webb said.
Less than an hour before this news broke, Dragons boss Webb fronted the media and said Ryles was still in the mix, as were his former St George Illawarra team-mates Dean Young and Ben Hornby.
"It's a work in progress, multiple talks still going on, but like all these things trying to do it relatively privately and confidentially as best we can to make sure we get a good outcome.
"But we're hoping that we can bring that to a head in the coming week or so we can move forward and start planning for 2024 ,"Webb said.
"Jason [Ryles] is definitely in the mix. There's a number that we are talking to but Jason is definitely in the mix, and he has a good resume to hold him in good stead so we will continue multiple talks and he is right there."
The next coach needed to bring on-field success to a Dragons side which has struggled since the departure of Wayne Bennett in 2011.
"We want someone who can see what we have as a list now, what we have in juniors coming through and we want them to be excited about what they can build for the future," Webb said.
Webb said the club was still working through that but wanted something which showed both parties were committed.
He did however say the sooner a coach was appointed the better in terms of moving forward and planning for season 2024 and beyond.
"It's a time now where things are fairly fluid with players, with a bit of player movement and looking towards 2024. Also with staffing people like to know how settled they can be so definitely the sooner we can get this sorted, the better," Webb said.
More to come,
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