Shane Flanagan may be forced to reassess St George Illawarra's halves options as uncertainty clouds Junior Amone's future.
A decision was handed down in the case of Junior, 21, and his father Talatau Amone, 47, at Wollongong Local Court following a two-day hearing earlier this year. They each pleaded not guilty to a raft of charges, including common counts of intimidation and assault occasioning actual bodily harm in company.
However Magistrate Gabriel Fleming found them both guilty of all counts. Junior and Talatau will be sentenced on December 6 and each face a maximum penalty of seven years' jail.
Soon after, the Dragons announced in a statement that Amone had been "stood down from all club activities until further notice".
The decision puts a huge question mark on who will wear the No.6 and No.7 jerseys for the Red V next year and beyond, as concerns also still remain around Ben Hunt's future in Wollongong. Media reports recently resurfaced that the Dragons skipper - who remains under contract - wants to move to Queensland, though coach Flanagan has repeatedly insisted that Hunt "will be here next year".
As the uncertainty continues, we take look at some of St George Illawarra's other halves options for 2024:
He might not be everyone's cup of tea, but Kyle Flanagan might have arrived at the Red V right in the nick of time.
While Flanagan's previous team, the Bulldogs had a disappointing 2023 campaign, the 25-year-old appeared to enjoyed a new lease on life in the No.14 jersey, playing 17 NRL games.
Flanagan - the son of coach Shane - brings a wealth of experience to Wollongong, having previously had stints with the Sharks and Roosters. He should be entering the prime years of his career and may be the perfect foil for Hunt - if he's still there.
Is Paul Turner ready to step up and become a full-time NRL player?
The former Warriors and Titans utility arrived in Wollongong without much fanfare ahead of the 2023 season and spent the majority of his time in the halves in NSW Cup.
Turner, 23, broke through for just one NRL game in July, lining up at fullback in a 36-26 defeat to the Raiders, but remains under contract for 2024.
He will be desperate to add to his tally of 14 NRL matches.
The Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles junior continues to face a nervous wait, remaining off-contract as the Roosters weigh up their options for 2024.
Hutchison made 17 appearances for the Bondi club this season, but was demoted ahead of finals as coach Trent Robinson recalled Sam Walker at halfback and young gun Sandon Smith came off the bench.
The former Dragons product has gathered interest from the Bulldogs, however, media reports also circulated last month that Hutchison could return to Wollongong.
Still only 28, he could be a potential target for Shane Flanagan.
Another player that is very familiar to the Illawarra is former Dragons utility Kurt Mann.
Mann also remains off-contract having spent the past five seasons with Newcastle, although there has been strong speculation that he is heading to the Bulldogs in 2024.
The 30-year-old has also been linked to the English Super League.
However, if neither of these moves pan out, Wollongong could be a potential landing spot for Mann. Having played more than 170 NRL games, he would bring a wealth of experience to the Red V.
LOOKING FURTHER AHEAD
If St George Illawarra can find a way to get through next year's campaign without making a big play, there are bigger options looming on the horizon for the 2025 season.
Panthers premiership hero Jarome Luai, Broncos grand final star Ezra Mam, Queensland Origin representative Tom Dearden and Roosters pair Luke Keary and Joseph Manu headline the list of players off-contract at the end of next season.
Other players free to negotiate with rival clubs for 2025 from November 1 this year include Raider Jamal Fogarty, Canterbury's Toby Sexton, Knights half Tyson Gambel and Kodi Nikorima from the Dolphins.
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