Exit the Dragons: Gaz may follow Baz to Super League
January 29, 2006
ST GEORGE Illawarra are in danger of losing international centre Mark Gasnier if captain Trent Barrett leaves the club at the end of the season.
Barrett has been given permission to negotiate with Super League clubs for the 2007 season and may exercise a get-out clause in his contract, which allows him to cut short his four-year deal with the Dragons.
Sources close to Gasnier revealed to The Sun-Herald that the gun centre, who is off contract at the end of the year, is unlikely to re-sign if Barrett opts to play overseas.
Dragons chief executive Peter Doust acknowledged that retaining Barrett was crucial to the club's efforts in re-signing several off-contract players - including the best centre in the game. Doust must also negotiate new deals with leading players Matt Cooper, Dean Young, Ben Creagh and Mathew Head - among others - this season.
"We certainly hope to keep him," Doust said. "I realise that re-signing him is an important part of retaining other players, including Mark. He is a very important member of our crew and it is only natural that other players would want to stay if he is here."
Gasnier's manager, George Mimis, has previously indicated his client is considering a possible defection to rugby union after this season. He has also been linked to Super League clubs in the past.
Gasnier and Barrett possessed a synergy like never before last season as the Dragons got within one victory of a grand final appearance.
Heeding the advice of premiership-winning coach Warren Ryan before the start of last season, Dragons coach Nathan Brown instructed Barrett to run straighter when in possession. The result was a combination with Gasnier on the right side of the Dragons' attack that netted eight tries for Gasnier and 20 for winger Colin Best.
Barrett's manager, Wayne Beavis, was given the green light from Doust on Friday to negotiate with overseas clubs. The Australian and NSW five-eighth has previously been linked to Super League powerhouse Wigan.
While it would be a shock to Dragons supporters if Barrett left the club, it is understood he has been privately unhappy about some aspects of the joint venture recently.
And he was displeased at Doust's decision to fine him for doing push-ups in his underpants in a near-empty bar near Wollongong late last season.
While press reports yesterday suggested Barrett was all but a certainty to leave the club, Doust said he remained hopeful of retaining his star five-eighth. "It's not a fait accompli that we are losing him by any means," Doust said. "Our ambition is to keep Trent Barrett at the club he has played for since he was 15. We'd very much like him to stay at this point."
Doust said he gave Beavis until the end of February to test his star client's value among Super League clubs to avoid conjecture during the season.
"From our point of view, we'd like to have this settled as soon as possible . . . we don't want to have this lingering over us when the season starts." he said. "This is a chance for Trent Barrett's management to clarify if there's any real interest in him. We don't want to have this lingering over us when the season starts."
Source: The Sun-Herald
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