BY CURTIS WOODWARD
One of St George Illawarra’s most respected players Joel Thompson has been released by the club to take up a contract with the Manly Sea Eagles.
There had been speculation that Thompson would be leaving the Dragons despite the man himself taking to Twitter in November saying, “Good being back with the boys for pre season.. Yes I’m still a Dragon and excited for a massive 2018”.
Frustrated Dragons fans are already demanding answers.
The club however said in a statement that it was Thompson’s management who had seeked a release.
“Joel and his management approached us about the long-term future he had at the Dragons. It was apparent Joel was looking to secure a long-term contract for his family beyond 2018,” Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward said.
“We wanted Joel as part of our Top 30 this season so obviously we had a big decision to make. We said all along that we didn’t want him to leave but we did respect what he was doing for his family long-term which is why we hesitantly granted him that permission.
“However we’re very confident – with Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims, Luciano Leilua and Jacob Host – that we have the depth in the back row to replace Joel.”
Thompson was classy in his statement thanking the Dragons and asking fans to get behind the team.
Manly coach Trent Barrett was clearly pleased to have the forward on his roster for 2018.
“Joel is a player I have admired for a long time. I coached him in the Country team a couple ofyears ago,’’ Barrett said via seaeagles.com.au.
So the @NRL_Dragons have released @joel_thompson12 worst kept secret ever. The redv just continue to disappoint me week in week out just a bloody disgrace the management should be ashamed of themselves— Benny (@saintbenny63) December 22, 2017
“Not only is Joel a terrific bloke and a terrific leader but he is extremely competitive and very tough. He is a professional.
“Joel has played plenty of first grade and his experience is something I thought our squad needed. Not only will the team benefit from it but also a lot of our young individuals will benefit too from having someone like Joel around.”
A month ago Thompson wasn’t going anywhere – according to him anyway. There were also rumours the club was prepared to squeeze him out to make room on the roster.
Dragons management already have few friends within their fan base.
This won’t help.