Mark Gasnier to sign with Dragons in few days

Mark GasnierThe wait for the return of prodigal son Mark Gasnier to the Dragons is over.Gasnier is poised to sign with the club next week, before the clash with the Wests Tigers at Kogarah’s WIN Jubilee Oval.After weeks of delicate negotiations, St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust and manager George Mimis are putting the finishing touches to third-party agreements which will secure Gasnier’s deal until the end of 2012. Full coverage of the Dragons Late yesterday Doust said negotiations with Gasnier remained “a work in progress”, but the Mercury understands a deal will be done in the coming days.Doust hosed down suggestions of a plan by the club to parade Gasnier in front of the faithful prior to Friday night’s home clash against the Tigers.While Gasnier’s signing is imminent, it could be up to three weeks before Gasnier takes the field, with coach Wayne Bennett eager to include the superstar centre in Dragons training sessions before unleashing him on the NRL.Still, the mere sight of Gasnier in a red-and-white polo shirt again will be enough to convince long-suffering Dragons fans this year could be the premiership drought breaker.Rumours were rife that Gasnier had signed on Thursday night, with even a high-profile Dragons player commenting to friends that a deal had been done with the 28-year-old.But Doust, who has been on a corporate trip in Queensland during the State of Origin period through the week, yesterday denied the contract was signed and sealed.Gasnier walked out on the Dragons during the 2008 season after a number of big-money third-party deals feel through.After 141 games for the Dragons, the star centre joined French rugby union outfit Stade Francais on a contract that was worth about $1 million per year. So that Gasnier can be squeezed under the salary cap this season, his new back-ended base contract is believed to be worth about $1 million over three years.He will also receive lucrative third-party payments, with Doust going to painstaking lengths to ensure there will be no collapse of these deals, as there was two years ago.Gasnier had attracted interest from NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds, coached by his mentor in Paris, Ewen McKenzie, with a view to playing for the Wallabies.New Super rugby franchise Melbourne Rebels – which signed South African-born Dragons prop Jarrod Saffy earlier this year – were also in negotiations with Gasnier about a return to Australia.But in the end, Gasnier chose to return home to Sydney and the NRL.After exercising the get-out clause two years into his five-year Dragons contract, Gasnier made an agreement with the club that he would only negotiate with them if he ever wanted to play in the NRL again.With more room left in their salary cap, the Roosters and Newcastle made overtures about Gasnier availability, but he made it clear he only ever wanted to play for the Dragons.
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