Would the dragons travel better without Zac Lomax?

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

With a modest population of around 5000, the proud locals can certainly claim to be over-represented per capita when it comes to producing top-flight footballers.

The latest addition to the Temora talent conveyor belt is Zac Lomax of St George Illawarra, former Australian Schoolboys representative and NSWRL’s 2017 Under-18 Player of the Year.

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

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

But despite the Dragons’ improving and now top-eight game in 2022, whether Lomax will do more harm than good to the famous Red V’s chances in the current Premiership campaign is a legitimate question.

There is no doubt that he has considerable talent with the ball. With 42 tackle breaks for the season (42nd in the NRL), yardage averages of 108.73 (60th in the NRL) and a handful of try-assists that have helped the Dragons build their recent assault on the Finals, shows Lomax continues to provide glimpses of what he could possibly be.

The Dragons' Zac Lomax warms up

(Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)

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

The most notable weaknesses in Lomax’s game are his mistakes. He currently leads the NRL with 28 handling errors in 15 games, and even when other errors are factored into the total errors category, he still leads the pops.

The eight penalties Lomax has conceded are also a concern, as his sometimes overly passionate and less than calm approach to competition puts him 41st in the NRL when it comes to giving an opponent a clear advantage through an infringement provide.

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

There’s no doubting Lomax’s talent, which was recognized by New South Wales selectors in 2020 when he was called up to the provisional squad ahead of the State of Origin series.

But the statistical anomaly he presents in terms of the positive aspects of his game and a top-50 finish in the four categories listed by the NRL as areas of negative play make Lomax a problematic trait on the Dragons team . Especially as coach Anthony Griffin is desperate for more consistency in a side keen to give their fans a taste of finals football for the first time since 2018.

Following Premiership glory in 2010, the Dragons managed to make just two appearances in September, finishing no higher than seventh on the ladder in the last ten seasons.

Zac Lomax is one of the new generation of Dragons that fans of the Red V are hoping will lead the club into a longer period of success and consistency. However, his individual game is far from consistent as he nears the conclusion of his fifth season in the top grade.

From a neutral perspective, Lomax is something of a difficult guard, 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 cross-and-cross business with little room for sentimentality and blind faith. Therefore, the question of whether the disadvantages of Lomax play outweigh the advantages is a valid one.

That’s the conclusion the Dragons need to draw and with a current contract position that keeps Lomax at Kogarah through 2025, St George Illawarra seems confident he will eventually become the player they expected.

https://www.theroar.com.au/2022/07/06/would-the-dragons-be-travelling-better-without-zac-lomax/ Would the dragons travel better without Zac Lomax?

Nate Jones

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