Brisbane are favourites to snare Dally M centre of the year James Roberts with Tim Lafai signing a two-year NRL contract with St George Illawarra.
Samoan international Lafai was granted a release by Canterbury following the signing of NSW winger Will Hopoate and signed with the Dragons on Friday after attracting interest from several other clubs including Gold Coast, Penrith and Warriors.
After former Manly winger Peta Hiku agreed a three-year deal with Penrith earlier this week, Roberts remains the only outside back on the open market.
The Dragons had met with Roberts however Lafai’s deal is expected to rule them out of the race.
Roberts reportedly met with Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett on Friday, a day after he said he wanted to play under the seven-time premiership winner.
Roberts knocked back a contract extension with the Titans after an embarrassing contract bungle in which it was discovered his signature had been forged on the paperwork.
He is also being chased by South Sydney but it is believed they do not have the salary cap space and would have to release players in addition to centre Dylan Walker and backrower Chris McQueen, who have already made way for the re-signing of Sam Burgess.
Parramatta are also reported to be interested in his services.
The Dragons have recruited heavily for 2016, signing Melbourne centre Kurt Mann, welcoming back Kalifa Faifai Loa after stints with North Queensland and Gold Coast, as well as adding forwards Mose Masoe, Sebastine Ikahihifo and Dunamis Lui.
Executive manager of football Ben Haran said the Dragons were surprised when Lafai came on the market at such a late stage in the year.
Lafai debuted with the Bulldogs in 2011, playing 72 games for them as well as five Tests for Samoa.
“I look forward to joining the St George Illawarra Dragons for the next two seasons and am excited by the opportunity to continue my career under (coach) Paul McGregor and the other coaching staff,” Lafai said.
“The club has a strong culture and are building strongly to compete for the premiership and I feel that I can positively contribute towards this.”