WITH the St George Illawarra Dragons out of the finals, succession planning for the 2014 squad under coach Steve Price is well under way.
The squad for 2014 under Price will take on a somewhat different look.
Familiar faces at the club, centre Matt Cooper, 34, and halfback Nathan Fien, 34, have announced their retirements.
Cooper, after 243 career games for the Dragons between 2000 and 2013 and a club record 102 tries, has succumbed to injuries, the latest being a career-ending torn pectoral muscle.
He sustained the injury in his comeback match against Souths and had to be replaced.
Ironically, Cooper, a "high priest of defensive technique" as a centre, was returning from three months on the sideline from a toe injury.
In the past two seasons nagging hamstring and foot injuries have robbed fans of seeing Cooper's trademark attacking rushes down the left hand side of the field and brick wall defence.
When fit and playing well, Cooper, is world class standard, up there with Brisbane's Justin Hodges and Manly's Jamie Lyon as premiers centres in the game.
Fien, 34, is also hanging up the boots, after five seasons with the Dragons and stints with North Queensland Cowboys and the New Zealand Warriors. He has played 274 games during 14 years in the NRL. Halfbacks Canberra's Sam Williams, Josh Drinkwater and former Panthers and Warriors halfback Harry Siejka will be engaged in a three-way battle for the No.7 jersey with Fien gone.
Coach Steve Price has to bite the bullet and promote one of these three young halfbacks in 2014 and build for the future. It's simple, now or never. If you buy them you must play them.