Gareth Widdop has urged St George Illawarra powerbrokers to re-sign his halves teammate Benji Marshall, and quickly.
Marshall is off contract at the Dragons at season’s end and his NRL future continues to be the source of much speculation.
Widdop believes Marshall still has plenty of good football left in him and doesn’t want drama over the future of the Wests Tigers premiership winner to be a distraction for the Dragons this season.
“It would be nice if Benji gets his future sorted out over the next few weeks; we don’t want any distractions throughout the season,” Widdop told AAP.
“He still has a few years left in him yet. It is his 30th birthday today, he can keep playing on for a while yet.
“As the years have gone on our combination has really grown. We have had a good pre-season together and we are keen to take it to the next level this year.”
However the Dragons have indicated they are unlikely to offer Marshall a new deal until around May, when their salary cap position becomes clearer.
That time also gives them an opportunity to gauge Marshall’s form in his 15th NRL season.
Marshall’s agent Martin Tauber told AAP his client was keen to get something sorted soon.
“The club want to wait and that is where negotiations are at the moment,” Tauber said.
“But we obviously don’t want to wait too long and not give ourselves the opportunity to look elsewhere if it comes to that.”
Widdop and Marshall will spearhead a new look spine for coach Paul McGregor’s Dragons this season. Representative fullback Josh Dugan will move to the centres opening up the custodian role for former Melbourne centre Kurt Mann.
Widdop said Mann would offer another playmaking dimension for the Dragons.
“Kurt is a lot different from ‘Duges’,” Widdop said.
“Obviously ‘Duges’ is a big 100kg fullback, a strong ball runner. Kurt is quite different. He is a bit quicker, more dynamic and he can ballplay as well which is a great asset.
“He has played really well throughout the trials.”