Amid rumours that Dragons prop Russell Packer may be deported back to New Zealand for his past criminal history, his teammate Joel Thompson said it would be "a massive shame" if that was to happen.
Packer, who was released from jail earlier this year after assaulting a man in Sydney in 2014, was cleared by NRL to sign a two-year deal with the Dragons in October.
Yet now Packer has another loophole to jump through with Immigration Minister Peter Dutton recently noting there remained a possibility of his department not allowing Packer to fulfil his contract with the Red V.
Since his release Packer has become a mentor to the young Polynesian players at the Dragons according to Thompson, while this week the former Kiwis international graduated from Wollongong Tafe with a Certificate IV in Community Services.
"As a player he'll be moving forward with us and that's the way we'll be thinking about it and that's the way he's training," Thompson said on Friday.
"It would be [disappointing] because I've seen all the work he's put in as a friend and as a player. It'd be a massive shame to see him go, the club loves him and we love him."
Having spent plenty of time with Packer and his family during the off-season, Thompson is excited by the prospects of the 26-year-old who spent a year in NSW Cup playing for the Illawarra Cutters.
"I love Rusty. I have a fair bit to do with him and I did a few sessions with him in the off-season and he brings experience as well as being a great mentor for the young Polynesian guys too," Thompson said.
"He's dragging a lot of the young guys through and talking to them. I've seen how much hard work he's put in outside of these grounds and in the community; he's just a genuinely good guy.
"I'm looking forward to ripping into the season and going into battle with him."
Thompson spoke of his happiness to link up with former Raiders playmaker Josh McCrone again as well, having played together for five years in the nation's capital.
"It's good to see him. I was at Canberra for a fair few years there so I know his work ethic and the type of player he is. I think he just needed this fresh start so he'll be pushing here for positions," Thompson said.
"Josh's a really hard trainer and I'm looking forward to seeing how he goes. He has a good head on his shoulders, he's a good talker, he's fit and he's not afraid to pull blokes up for taking shortcuts. Overall he's just a great leader."
Image courtesy Dragons.com.au.