Rugby League


Dragons forward Joel Thompson set to return to Canberra Raiders

The Canberra Raiders could finalise a deal with St George Illawarra forward Joel Thompson as early as next week to bring him back to the club.

Thompson joined the Dragons this season on a three-year contract worth a reported $1.2 million after spending his first six years in the NRL with the Raiders.

But the versatile second-rower and centre is looking to return to Canberra for family reasons and add to his 89 first-grade games with the Raiders.

Thompson would be a perfect fit for a Raiders side that is looking to bolster its depth in both the forwards and the outside backs.

The 25-year-old came through the Raiders development system and was a part of the club's premiership-winning under-20s team in 2008.

Thompson played for Country Origin in 2011 and is also a two-time Indigenous All Stars representative.


He played his first four games for the Dragons off the interchange bench before earning a starting spot in the second row, and has been named in the centres for Sunday's match against the Canterbury Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.

But it is understood Thompson's decision is purely based around his family wanting to return to Canberra and he is enjoying his time at the Dragons.

His departure will allievate any salary cap pressure there may have been on the Dragons following their decision to sign former Wests Tigers star Benji Marshall on Friday to a 2½-year contract.

The Dragons have reportedly spent $1.1 million on recruiting Marshall until the end of 2016 after his failed foray into rugby union with the Auckland Blues.

The arrival of Thompson is also likely to rule the Raiders out of any chance they had of securing highly-sought after Melbourne Storm forward Kevin Proctor.

Several clubs have been interested in the New Zealand international, but he could remain at the Storm after Ryan Hoffman's decision to join the Warriors for the next three years.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart said that while he wasn't privy to any discussions about Thompson, it was encouraging to see a player want to return to the club.

"It's a fantastic thing for the people of Canberra to understand, it's a great club, it's a great environment, we've got great resources and it's not always better or greener on the other side,'' Stuart said.

"I think Joel's a very good football player. I don't think he was that keen to leave, but it ended up the offer was very good.

"He's a local boy, he's played for the club for a number of years, he's very tough and very talented, but it's something I've got to talk more about with our recruitment team and [chief executive] Don Furner.''

Thompson would add to a second-row rotation at the Raiders featuring Joel Edwards and Kangaroos international Josh Papalii.

Edwards is signed with the Raiders until 2017, while Papalii is in the first year of a three-year contract at the club.

Thompson could also be used in the centres, a position where the Raiders have used rookie Matt Allwood.