Widdop will ‘definitely’ stick with Saints
DON'T despair Dragons fans, Gareth Widdop's manager is adamant the star five-eighth will be at St George Illawarra next season.
In fact, he may not leave at all.
Reports their captain wanted to quit the Dragons because of homesickness sent the Red V faithful into a frenzy on Wednesday. It came just hours after Shaun Johnson was released from the final year of his New Zealand Warriors deal.
But Widdop's agent Paul Sutton said the England international had not asked for a release hasn't set a date for a return to the UK.
Widdop has told Saints officials he does harbour a "desire" to one day return to his homeland - but hasn't indicated when.
Sutton said Widdop would have to give the Dragons at least a year's notice for the club to secure a new, elite halfback.
The most likely option would be Widdop leaving St George Illawarra with one year remaining on his contract in 2021.
"Gareth will definitely be at St George Illawarra next year," Sutton said.
"He hasn't asked for a release, he may see out the entire contract. At some point in the future he expressed an interest in returning to England."
The 29-year-old has been in Australia since he was 16 and St George Illawarra officials would need some strong convincing to allow Widdop to walk away early if being homesick was the reason cited.
The Dragons also know that freeing Widdop after next season means they would be going head-to-head in the market with the Sydney Roosters - with Cooper Cronk retiring - in searching for a quality half.
Before signing his most recent contract just last year, which was worth $1 million a season, Halifax-born Widdop did express an ambition to return home given he joined the Melbourne Storm system at 16.
"It's not immediate, it may be never. It's just something in the back of his mind," a friend close to Widdop said.
"He will be there next year. The club doesn't have to let him go and he certainly hasn't drawn a line in the sand.
"It's like three guys sitting around a table having a beer and one says he might go to England - and that's it. It's all got out of hand."
Speculation Widdop wanted out alerted several English clubs, who have had internal discussions about moves to recruit the No.6.
Huddersfield has revealed an interest in Widdop - if he suddenly wanted out - while Hull FC and Wigan are other likely suitors.
"If he's available, we would obviously be interested and we have a marquee spot available," said Giants coach and former Dragons hooker, Simon Woolford.
Widdop once described finishing his career in England as a "fairytale."
The 29-year-old did not play in the recent England-New Zealand Test series due to a shoulder injury.