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Would the Dragons be travelling better without Zac Lomax?

Temora has produced some quality NRL talent over the last 30 years. Former Dragon Trent Barrett, Canterbury’s Steve Reardon, the Roosters’ Angus Crichton and current representative Panther Liam Martin all hail from the south-central New South Wales town.

With a modest population of around 5000, the proud locals could well claim to be over-represented per capita when it comes to producing quality footballers.

The latest product of the Temora conveyor belt of talent is St George Illawarra’s Zac Lomax, former Australian Schoolboys representative and NSWRL’s under-18s player of the year in 2017.

At just 22 years of age, with 64 matches now under his belt and a growing reputation for being somewhat antagonistic and confrontational in the heat of battle, Lomax has certainly made an impact on the NRL competition.

Already in his relatively short NRL career there have been bright moments of class and quality and a few others that have proven a little embarrassing for him. Despite the obvious inconsistency, many still believe his overall potential and future value outweigh any doubts around his long-term success in the NRL.

Yet despite the improving and now top-eight play of the Dragons in 2022, the question as to whether Lomax is doing more harm than good to the chances of the famous Red V in the current premiership campaign is a fair one.

There is clearly no doubt that he has considerable talent with ball in hand. With 42 tackle breaks for the season (42nd in the NRL), average running metres of 108.73 (60th in the NRL) and a handful of try assists that have helped the Dragons build their recent charge to finals contention, Lomax continues to show glimpses of what he could perhaps be.

Zac Lomax of the Dragons warms up

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

However, should he ever hope to become a top-level NRL centre, it is the other and significantly deficient areas of the former Illawarra Steelers junior’s game that continue to demand attention and improvement.

The most notable of the flaws in Lomax’s game are his errors. He currently tops the NRL with 28 handling mistakes across 15 matches, and even with other errors factored into the total-errors category he still sits top of the pops.

The eight penalties Lomax have conceded are also a problem, with his sometimes overly passionate and less-than-composed approach to the contest placing him 41st in the NRL when it comes to giving a clear advantage to the opposition via an infringement.

There have also been 20 ineffective tackles for Lomax in 2022 (40th in the NRL) to go with 29 clear misses, and his overall tackle efficiency percentage of 88.9 suggests there is still much work to be done in that area.

There is no doubting the talent residing in Lomax, something acknowledged by the New South Wales selectors in 2020 when he was named in the preliminary squad in the lead-up to the State of Origin series.

Yet the statistical anomaly he presents in terms of the positive aspects to his game and a top-50 ranking across the four categories listed by the NRL as areas of negative play make Lomax something of a problematic feature in the Dragons outfit. Especially as coach Anthony Griffin desperately searches for a greater level of consistency from a squad keen to give their fans a taste of finals football for the first time since 2018.

After the glory of the 2010 premiership, the Dragons have managed to feature in September action on just two occasions, finishing no higher than seventh on the ladder across the last ten seasons.

Zac Lomax is one of the new breed of Dragons that fans of the Red V hope will lift the club into an extended period of success and consistency. However, his individual game is far from consistent as he nears the completion of his fifth season in the top grade.

From a neutral perspective Lomax is something of a difficult watch, with moments of inept and frustrating play interspersed with flashes of class and power that the Dragons obviously saw in him as a junior.

However, modern professional sport is a cut-and-thrust business with little room for sentimentality and blind trust. Thus the question of whether the cons in the Lomax game outweigh the pros is a fair one.

That conclusion is one for the Dragons to draw, and with a current contract situation that keeps Lomax at Kogarah until 2025, it appears St George Illawarra are confident he will eventually become the player they anticipated he would be.

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