The St George Illawarra Dragons are delighted to announce Jillaroos trio Kezie Apps, Sam Bremner and Talesha Quinn as their initial marquee signings ahead of the inaugural NRL Holden Women's Premiership season.
Since being granted a license in March to participate in the inaugural elite Women's Premiership, key staff including women's coach Daniel Lacey, Executive Manager - Football Ben Haran, Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward and recruitment manager Richard Agar have led the development of the inaugural Dragons women's program and playing roster.
A list of 60 marquee players identified by the NRL has been provided to the competing four clubs and a recruitment window is currently in place to contract these players until June 11, which will be followed then by a free agency window.
The Dragons have a long history with female rugby league, particularly the development of the game where we now have over 14,000 girls and women competing in our region across tackle, tag and touch football," Agar said.
"An NRL team really completes our rugby league pathway and has already generated great interest and excitement. As a development club, it has always been our intention to ensure that we have a strong local presence within our team across the squad. Players in our region can be confident that they will have every opportunity to be a part of the Dragons NRL team both in 2018 and beyond.
"We are delighted today to announce Jillaroos Kezie Apps, Talesha Quinn and Sam Bremner as our initial marquee player signings and there will be more to follow in the coming weeks," Agar added
"They are the foundation upon which our team will be built for not only their on-field skills, but so too for their leadership, and the positive influence on both the squad and aspiring female players within our region."
Apps and Bremner – who are both Dragons ambassadors and Helensburgh Tigers players – were instrumental in the club's inclusion in the NRL Holden Women's Premiership; the duo helped push the Red V's bid throughout the tender process and beyond.
The 2016 Dally M Women's Player of the Year Apps will lead the Dragons up front as she looks to balance her fantastic off-field work in Dragons Community with the first NRL women's season.
"It's really exciting and something that I never thought I'd be able to ever achieve. I can't believe it's actually happening that I'll be playing for an NRL club," Apps said.
"The Dragons have helped me so much personally so it's very exciting to represent them on the field as well as off the field."
Fullback Bremner is another key acquisition for the Dragons ahead of the inaugural season.
Despite her wretched run with injuries throughout 2017, Bremner was crucial in Country NSW's National Championships win over the weekend where she was named 'Player of the Carnival'.
"It's a big day for women's rugby league and me personally. It feels like yesterday I was trying to get my friends to learn and play with me back in 2010 for Helensburgh," Bremner said.
"Now I'm signing one of the first NRL women's contracts. It's crazy to think how far the women's game has come. It gives me goosebumps. I'm really excited and looking forward to playing for the Dragons."
Quinn caps off the Dragons' maiden signings for the NRL Holden Women's Premiership season.
Having previously studied at the University of Wollongong, Quinn is no stranger to the Dragons' catchment areas having previously played for the Berkeley Eagles in the Illawarra Women's competition.
Through her work with the Army and its elite sports program, Quinn quickly earned New South Wales and Jillaroos jerseys with the latter coming just prior to Australia's successful Women's Rugby League World Cup campaign last year.
"I wanted to play where I was comfortable and obviously playing where footy started for me was a great opportunity. To go back to Wollongong, to have Sammy and Kezie there and to play around good people was a massive factor in my decision," Quinn said.
"Sam and Kezie have been involved at the Dragons for a while, and the club has been so good with the promotion of the women's game.
"Hopefully me being at the Dragons now, I can be a mentor to the young girls coming through as well following the recent success of the club's Tarsha Gale Cup sides."
Apps and Bremner's acquisitions leave 19 spots to be filled in the Dragons' inaugural women's playing roster, with the full squad to be finalised.
The Dragons have also established a female high performance program involving specialist coaching and education similar to the established men’s program, for 20 identified development female players from within the club's region which will commence next week.
- 2016 Dally M Female Player of the Year
- Country New South Wales (2018)
- New South Wales Origin (2014-17)
- Australian Jillaroos (2014-17)
- 2017 Women's Rugby League World Cup winner
- Women's All Stars (2013-17)
Coach Daniel Lacey said: "Kezie has a passion for the Dragons already," he said.
"I think she's the best back-rower in the world for female rugby league and she's a great ambassador for the club."
- Country New South Wales (2018)
- Country NSW co-captain (2018)
- National Championships MVP (2018)
- New South Wales Origin (2011-17)
- Australian Jillaroos (2012-17)
- 2013 and 2017 Women's Rugby League World Cup winner
- Women's All Stars (2011-17)
Coach Daniel Lacey said: "A lot of people would know who Sam is already and what she can do. I'm one of those people. She has a connection to the area – which is part of my direction for the club – so to sign these high profile players is ideal for the Dragons."
- New South Wales Origin (2017)
- Australian Jillaroos (2017)
- 2017 Defence Force Rugby League World Cup winner
- 2017 Female Rugby League World Cup winner
Coach Daniel Lacey said: "Talesha is a massive signing for the Dragons. From the initial meetings we had about recruitment, we were keen to pair her up with Kezie to form a strong back row," he said.
"We put a lot of work into recruiting Talesha. A lot of clubs were after her so the idea that she's put us first is massive for the Dragons moving forward."