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St George Illawarra have today granted Joel Thompson a release from the final season of his Dragons playing contract.

Thompson and his management requested the early release to seek long-term security for he and his family in the NRL.

Thompson's release has now enabled him to take up a multi-year deal at another NRL club ahead of the 2018 Telstra Premiership season.

"Joel and his management approached us about the long-term future he had at the Dragons. It was apparent Joel was looking to secure a long-term contract for his family beyond 2018," Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward said.

"We wanted Joel as part of our Top 30 this season so obviously we had a big decision to make. We said all along that we didn't want him to leave but we did respect what he was doing for his family long-term which is why we hesitantly granted him that permission.

"However we're very confident – with Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims, Luciano Leilua and Jacob Host – that we have the depth in the back row to replace Joel."

The 29-year-old played 85 NRL games for the Dragons over the past four seasons, and said he was grateful for the club's understanding in granting him his requested release.

"It's an emotional day leaving this great club. But with three girls and a young family I had to make that decision [to request a release]," Thompson said.

"It's going to be really tough leaving the staff, the players and the fans. Everyone has been unbelievable to me and I can't thank them enough.

"I've not only grown as a footballer but as a person at the Dragons. Everyone has helped me so much and I couldn't be more grateful and thankful for what they've done for me.

"Thank you to the Red V Members and fans for all the support you've given me over the years. I encourage you to get behind this great team. They have plenty of potential and are going to play some really good football," Thompson added.

"That was another part of my decision, I believe the young guys coming through now will step up, make that role their own and take this club to where it deserves to be."

Millward said the Dragons will now look to fill the void left by Thompson in the club's Top 30 squad.

"We won't be going into the marketplace for a back-rower due to the adequate depth there. But there's plenty of time to work out what position we'll look at," Millward said.

"Something that comes to mind is an outside back. We think we may need a little bolstering there. But we'll take our time, view what's out there and eventually replace Joel – just not with a back-rower."

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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