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Oneata Schwalger and cousin Tim Lafai.

Oneata Schwalger had never met her cousin Tim Lafai until she signed to play for St George Illawarra in the NRL Women's Premiership.

Now the pair are trying to convince Lafai's sister, Atasi, to join the club.

Schwalger, who played for Australia in the 2014 Women's Rugby World Cup, was one of five recruits announced by the Dragons on Wednesday, a group that also included Kiwi Ferns stars Honey Hireme and Raecene McGregor.

The Melbourne-based mother-of-two is the sister of former All Blacks prop John Schwalger and began playing league more than a decade ago in New Zealand before moving to Australia.

She represented Samoa at February's Commonwealth Championships Nines tournament and played in the final against a Jillaroos team featuring fellow St George Illawarra recruit Rikeya Horne.

Atasi Lafai was also a member of the Samoa team and plays with both league and union alongside Schwalger.  

Ben Hunt with Raecene McGregor.
Ben Hunt with Raecene McGregor. ©

"They played in the Nines and got a silver medal in the final against the Jillaroos. That is obviously why she [Schwalger] is here now," Lafai said. "My sister loves her union but we are trying to get her to league.

"It is pretty good having family in the same team now, repping the Red V. I am pretty sure she will do well."

Schwalger was spotted by Dragons recruitment manager Richard Agar and coach Daniel Lacey playing for Affiliated States at the recent National Championships.

The 32-year-old said she jumped at the opportunity to play in the inaugural NRL Women's Premiership and has arranged for family members to look after he two sons Diego, 11, and Malakye, 10, while she is playing for the Dragons.

Rikeya Horne and Tyson Frizell.
Rikeya Horne and Tyson Frizell. ©

"They are Storm supporters, I am Warriors, but now we are Dragons," she said.

"To play NRL was a goal, I knew where the game was going and they were offering an opportunity for me to play so I grabbed it."

Lacey travelled to Melbourne last week to meet with Schwalger and she is the first confirmed signing by any of the four NRL clubs from outside the pool of 60 players on marquee NRL and NZRL contracts.

"She has played at the highest level in rugby union and this experience, combined with her energy and enthusiasm will pay huge dividends for the squad," Lacey said.

"Oneata will give her all for the Dragons. She's shown that ever since we expressed interest in her."

The Dragons have now announced eight signings - Jillaroos stars Sam Bremner, Kezie Apps and Talesha Quinn, the Kiwi Ferns duo of Hireme and McGregor, Horne, Schwalger and NSW winger Jessica Sergis.

It is understood the club is close to finalising deals with another five players which will be announced soon.


Holden Women's State of Origin is ready to kick off a new era in elite women's sport. Witness the spirit of Origin manifest on the iconic North Sydney Oval on Friday, June 22. Tickets available now!

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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