DRAGONS boss Dean Ryan admits loosehead is a priority in recruitment after prop Brok Harris "took control" of his own future because they hadn’t offered a new contract.

The South African has been a mainstay of the pack at Rodney Parade since arriving from the Stormers and Western Province in November 2014.

The 36-year-old has remained as influential as ever this season, playing in 18 of 23 possible games.

He was also named as the PRO14 'tackle machine' after missing just four times to have the best success rate in the league, snaring 170 victims.

However, the Dragons did not offer him a new contract and Harris made the decision to return to South Africa with his family.

Director of rugby Ryan pointed to be unable to offer fresh terms due to a lack of clarity on funding from the Welsh Rugby Union.

However, the Dragons have concluded a raft of retentions and have even brought in another option in their already strong back row in Dan Baker.

They rolled the dice with Harris and the stalwart, a huge figure on and off the field, opted to reluctantly make the call the move back to South Africa and be in control of his own destiny rather than hang on.

South Wales Argus:

“Brok has been a tremendous servant and we are in a difficult space,” said Ryan. “We are caught with needing him, we are caught with his age and we are caught with not knowing our funding for the last six months.

“Brok has taken control of that situation and decided to take his family home and we really do wish him well because he has been such a crucial part of what the Dragons have become.”

Harris’ departure leaves the Dragons down to Greg Bateman, who has struggled with injuries and fitness since joining from Leicester last summer, and Josh Reynolds, who has made just four senior starts.

Aaron Jarvis is also still waiting for a contract offer but if he stays then the versatile prop is likely to be needed at tighthead due to Lloyd Fairbrother rupturing his Achilles.

South Wales Argus:

"Loosehead has been a priority for a long time. We have known some time that Brok had taken control of the situation,” said Ryan.

"Some ways I was quite relieved because that is not the way that we should be dealing with our players in Wales because we don't know what our money is. That can leave people and families in a very difficult situation.

"We are aware of what we will do next and have commitments to that space and will inform when we are in a better place to.”

Ryan insisted that the exit was down to the wait for clarity from the Union rather than the Dragons prioritising other retentions.

"We didn't have the choice. People need to understand that funding gives you more choice,” he said. "He is first-choice for us at the moment and to have choice would have been crucial.

"For us to treat somebody that has been central to the Dragons for a long period of time fairly would have been right. It’s disappointing that has been difficult and I am actually quite pleased with the resolution.”

Regarding prop targets, Ryan said: “We’ve got agreements with the next direction that we will take but can’t commit to things.”