Rugby League

Paul McGregor gives Benji Marshall two months to prove his worth to St George Illawarra Dragons

St George-Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has poured cold water on off-contract Melbourne star Cooper Cronk coming to the Dragons in 2017.

But neither did he guarantee veteran No.7 Benji Marshall would be offered a new deal to stay in Wollongong, instead giving Marshall just two months to prove his worth.

Playing for his future: Benji Marshall.
Playing for his future: Benji Marshall. Photo: Getty Images

The former Kiwi captain, second-rower Joel Thompson, co-captain Ben Creagh and hooker Mitch Rein are all without a club beyond this season, but with 21 players under contract for 2017, McGregor challenged all of them to have big starts to the new year.

"We've got a very settled roster here. Going into 2017, we've got 21 players under contract out of 25, and three of our second tier out of six," McGregor said on Friday.

"The only players off contract at the moment are Benji, Joel Thompson, Benny Creagh, and obviously Mitch Rein, who's our local junior. That'll work itself out over the first half of the season.

"Them four guys are very high on my plans going forward and a lot will determine how we play in the first eight weeks of the competition."

McGregor also poured cold water on speculation regarding their pursuit of Melbourne star Cooper Cronk, who has a player option in his favour to remain in Storm colours next season.

The Dragons were reported to have offered the Kangaroos representative a whopping $3.5 million deal over three years as a direct replacement for Marshall, however McGregor denied talks have even begun.

He also distanced the club from a rumoured player-swap with the Gold Coast Titans involving Peter Mata'utia and Josh Hoffman.

"A ball's not even kicked in the 2016 season and we're talking about '17," he said.

"To put a few rumours to rest, Cooper Cronk hasn't been spoken to by anyone at the club. That's that put to sleep. He's not coming.

"The other one with Josh Hoffman - that's news to me. I haven't heard that one, so that's fresh to me. There's no truth in that either."

AAP

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