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Field could be Dragons No.1: Nightingale

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 29/05/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Promising youngster Jai Field has all the tools to be St George Illawarra's long-term fullback when Josh Dugan leaves at the end of the year, according to veteran Jason Nightingale.

Dugan's long-awaited decision to join Cronulla next season opened the door for the Dragons to move on with their 2018 recruitment drive, which so far only includes Ben Hunt.

The joint-venture outfit could go on the search for a fullback, however, their reluctance to show Dugan the money means the club are likely to look internally.

Nightingale believes Field is a long-term playmaker but with Hunt set to join the newly re-signed Gareth Widdop in the halves, the speed demon is a strong option to wear the No.1.

"I think Jai long-term will be a five-eighth or a halfback. I think that where he's played all his juniors," Nightingale said.

"But he's definitely fast enough and got enough of a running game to play fullback.

"I think potentially, but that's up to many people other than me."

The 19-year-old Field will get a big chance to showcase his ability when he plays five-eighth for the NSW State of Origin under-20s team in a curtain-raiser to the main game on Wednesday.

He has so far played sparingly off the bench in three appearances for the Dragons this season.

"It is a tough role, that utility off the bench. Obviously one of the games he played most of the game. I think he's getting better and better," Nightingale said.

"Little representative honours like he's got coming up will only make him grow as a player.

"I'm excited to see him run around on Wednesday. I'm sure he'll do himself and our club very proud."

Before Dugan signed with the Sharks, the Dragons were willing to make the incumbent Australian and NSW three-quarter the highest paid centre in the game.

However, they could now opt to retain the off-contract Tim Lafai, who has been one of the Dragons' biggest improvers in the backline this season.

Nightingale himself is without a deal beyond November and is keen to start negotiations on a new contract following the end to the Dugan saga.

"I'd love to secure my future here and that's definitely on my radar," he said.

"Now that (Dugan's) done, there's plenty of people still off-contract that'll be sorted in the coming months.

"Hopefully retention is number one for everyone here. I know it is for myself... I think contracts, as we seen with Josh, sort itself out."

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