St George-Illawarra coach Paul McGregor personally assured star playmaker Benji Marshall the Dragons were not chasing Storm halfback Cooper Cronk but is yet to give the former New Zealand captain any firm indication about his future at the club beyond this season.
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McGregor called Marshall to a meeting on Friday morning to advise him that rumours linking Cronk to St George-Illawarra next season were untrue before fronting a press conference where he publicly debunked speculation the Dragons had offered the 32-year-old international a lucrative three-year contract.
"Cooper Cronk hasn't been spoken to by anyone at the club," McGregor told reporters at WIN Stadium. "That's that put to sleep, he's not coming."
A Storm official also told Fairfax Media that the rumoured St George-Illawarra offer of about $1 million per season for Cronk was a "furphy" and the club was hopeful of keeping the Australian and Queensland No.7.
Cronk's relationship with Fox Sports presenter Tara Rushton has sparked speculation that he wants to move to Sydney and he has been known to fly up and back from Melbourne in the one day to visit her but she also travels to the Victorian capital when possible.
With his next contract likely to be his last, the term Cronk's new agent George Mimis seeks is likely to be a significant factor in whether he stays in Melbourne as the club must be mindful of the fact that captain Cameron Smith and superstar fullback Billy Slater are also 32 and wouldn't want all three to retire in the same season.
The Dragons face a similar dilemma over Marshall, who will celebrate his 31st birthday before the season starts.
McGregor has previously told Fairfax Media he would like to re-sign Marshall but for how long is unclear and he indicated on Friday that a decision would be made a third of the way into the season.
With 21 of the Dragons' top 25 players already contracted for next season, McGregor has little wriggle room in the salary cap to increase the value of deals for Marshall, hooker Mitch Rein, second rower Joel Thompson and co-captain Ben Creagh unless one of them is to go.
"Them four guys are very high in my plans going forward and a lot will determine how we play in the first eight weeks of the competition," McGregor said.
The Dragons also have NSW Under-20s captain Drew Hutchison and former Canberra halfback Josh McCrone contracted until the end of 2017, while they will keep a close eye on the progress of highly regarded North Queensland product Shaun Nona, who has joined the Illawarra Cutters after a year at the Storm.
Marshall said earlier this week that he believed he had another two to three seasons left and hoped to play out his career with St George Illawarra after joining the club midway through the 2014 season following a brief stint in rugby union with Auckland Blues.
Salford Reds are believed to be interested in him if he were to leave the Dragons but Marshall is not keen to play in England.