Jay CronanCanberra Raiders prop Paul Vaughan will join the St George Illawarra Dragons after accepting a three-year deal.
The paperwork is expected to be finalised on Monday, with the representative front-rower signing a $$1.75 million, three-year, flexible deal to become the latest Raider to switch to the Red V.
He’ll join former Raiders Josh Dugan, Joel Thompson and Josh McCrone at the Dragons, with Sam Williams, Josh Miller and Bronson Harrison other former Canberra players who’ve made the same switch in the recent past.
Vaughan, who was contracted to Canberra for the 2017 NRL season, was also courted by Newcastle, Parramatta and Gold Coast before the big bopper opted for the Dragons’ big-money offer.
He has played 85 games for the Raiders over the last four seasons since making his debut against the North Queensland Cowboys in 2013.
The front-rower slipped down the prop pecking order at the Raiders this season, with Canberra coach Ricky Stuart opting for Kangaroos debutant Shannon Boyd, Junior Paulo, Clay Priest and Joe Tapine as his big-man rotation instead.
Vaughan was dropped after the round-18 victory over the Cowboys and played three games for the Raiders’ NSW Cup affiliate Mounties, with Priest playing his way from the Mounties onto an NRL team.
He then earned a recall to the seniors for the 44-30 away win over the Manly Sea Eagles in round 25 after Paulo suffered a rib injury.
The 25-year-old dropped back out of the side when Paulo returned for the qualifying final against the Cronulla Sharks, but returned to finish the season with the Raiders when Priest broke his ankle at training in the lead-up to their semi-final against the Wests Tigers.
With the Raiders boasting plenty of cover for the front row – with Sia Soliola, Jeff Lima, Jarrad Kennedy and former Canterbury Bulldog Makahesi Makatoa also in the prop wings – it’s believed the Raiders started shopping Vaughan around to other clubs.
Vaughan’s management then started looking for the best deal, with the Dragons coming to the party with their big offer.
He’ll slot straight into a Dragons front-row alongside the likes of Leeson Ah Mau, Mose Masoe and Russell Packer.
It’s believed the Dragons ticked a few boxes for Vaughan, not least of which was Wollongong’s close proximity to his home town – plus the Canberra product’s mum is a big Dragons fan.
Vaughan was tipped to be a future Origin prop and has played three City-Country Origins, as well as making the same number of appearances for Italy.
He opted against joining former Raiders captain Terry Campese at the Azzurri for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers – against Wales and Serbia over the next fortnight – instead focusing on finalising his future.
That future now lies with the Dragons. While he’ll be a big loss for the Raiders, they’re confident they have the depth to cover Vaughan without having to go back to the market.
Raiders recruitment manager Peter Mulholland told Fairfax Media earlier this month they had the depth to cover Vaughan’s loss.
“You don’t want to lose a player out of a side that’s got to second spot in the competition and one game off the grand final, it’s a bit hard, but sometimes you’ve got to move forward as well,” Mulholland said at the time.
“I think Ricky’s pretty comfortable with where we are with the roster. We’ll have some improvement with [English utility] Jordan Turner, Lachlan Croker will be back [from a knee reconstruction].
“We’ve had a really strong reserve-grade performance … that’s the sign of a good club and depth in a club. Our under-20s made the eight so it’s all looking good for depth and player progression and that’s what we’re about.”
The Raiders players are currently on holidays and will return for pre-season training in mid November.
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