Half chances for Dragons

Points to prove: Luke Keary could be at the Dragons next year if the club agrees a three-year deal, worth $1.2 million. Picture: Getty ImagesBENJI Marshall or Luke Keary?

Think about it. Who would you rather have?

An experienced, injury-hampered veteran who still possessessome of the old magic, or a scorned young talent with everything to prove?

Before you make the choice, consider the circumstances around him.

Gareth Widdop is starting to feel comfortable as Dragons captain after a slow start to the season.

Josh McCrone is at the very least a steady fallback option, while Drew Hutchison appears to have been removed from the NRL selection discussion entirely.

Both Widdop and McCrone are contracted for next season.

Still, before locking in a player for next year, lift your eyes and consider what might become available.

Jack Bird comes off contract again in 2017 after signing a one-year extension with the Sharks.

So impressive has Bird been in the centres for Cronulla, he’s squarely in the frame for NSW State of Origin selection.

What position would the Berkeley junior play if he returned to St George Illawarra in 2018?Does it make you more likely to sign Keary now, or keep Marshall for another season before throwing the kitchen sink at Bird?

There’s already a groundswell of support from the Illawarra end of the joint venture to have Bird return to the Dragons, given the club has lost a number of top juniors in recent times.

Keeping Marshall and signing Keary seems highly unlikely, unless there was genuine concern Widdop would leave, as was speculated last year.

Keary has already had to slash his asking price, given his on-field form and the fallout with South Sydney owner Russell Crowe.

So now the Dragons consider a three-year $1.2 million deal, as they weigh up what to do about Marshall.

The coming days become crucial for Benji’s future, as well as St George Illawarra’s finals hopes.Away trips to struggling Manly and Newcastle follow a Wollongong date with Melbourne – missing their Origin stars – and Monday afternoon’s showdown against the Dogs.

Given Canterbury’s patchy –albeit at times explosive form –the Dragons have a real chance to setup their season before their second bye in round 18.Equally important is how long Paul McGregor, Ian Millward and Peter Doust are willing to entertain Marshall’sfuture in the red V.

It was only three months ago Marshall’s veteran manager Martin Tauber declared the 2005 premiership winner still had three years left in him.Coming up with a strategic direction about a playmaker ismade more urgent because of the Dragons’ inability to score points.

Fans are edgy about where the tries are coming from, as much as the mantra remains about their platform being built around defence.Still, the tension will be eased if the Dragons win three of their next four games and Marshall is impressive.

The X-factor in St George Illawarra’s plans could be young North Queensland fullback or halves optionJahrome Hughes, who played in the 14-10 loss to the Dragons in Wollongong last month.

Hughes is likely to be squeezed out as the premiers restructure their salary cap after winning their first title last year.The 21-year-old is highly rated and could finally be the solution to McGregor’s plans to move Josh Dugan to the centres.

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