St George Illawarra are delighted to announce the signings of Holli Wheeler and Anneka Stephens ahead of the inaugural NRL Holden Women's Premiership season.
Back-rower Wheeler and lock Stephens's acquisitions follows the signing of Oneata Schwalger in the free agency period, which will remain open until Tuesday, July 31.
For Mid-North Coast product Wheeler, her meteoric rise since taking up rugby league permanently in 2017 has already seen her represent the victorious New South Wales Country at the recent National Championships as well as New South Wales in the first ever Women's State of Origin.
"This opportunity is something I never thought I'd be able to do. It's absolutely amazing to not only sign for myself but also for my family at home," Wheeler said.
"It's been a crazy couple of weeks playing for Country and Origin, and now signing with the Dragons. I wouldn't change anything for the world. I'm keen to rip in and get involved with what a great club that the Dragons are, as well as learn as much as I can.
"The Roosters have obviously signed a lot of marquee players and they're probably looking crash hot at the moment but that's perfect for me. I love being the underdog and we'll definitely ruffle their feathers."
Dragons coach Daniel Lacey was buoyed Wheeler was able to push for higher honours following her performances for NSW Country.
"We identified Holli while she was playing with a lot of our local girls at the National Championships and we were only hearing good things about her from the camp," Lacey said.
"She brings versatility and some goal kicking skills to the Dragons. The most pleasing part was [New South Wales coach] Ben Cross also saw her play at the National Championships and picked her for State of Origin".
"The experiences she would have gained from playing for the Blues will be great for our squad."
Western Australian forward Stephens is another free agent identified by Lacey at the NRL Holden Women's Premiership following her outstanding performances for the Combined Affiliated States, also at the National Championships.
"Anneka is a player who will bring a real high work ethic to the Dragons. We saw her putting other players on their back on numerous occasions when she represented the Combined Affiliated States," Lacey said.
"When we approached her she was all for the chance to develop and improve her game being that she's from Western Australia."
Stephens hit the headlines as a standout for the Combined Affiliated States earlier in June; one who'd be able to transcend the elite marquee squad and sign with an NRL Holden Women's Premiership outfit in the free agency period.
"To be given this opportunity is something amazing and I am very thankful and blessed. I just want to take everything in and learn as much as I can to better my game," Stephens said.
"There is always room for improvement and no doubt they will push me to become the player I need to be to compete on the big stage. This year has been the first I have fully committed to rugby league and it has definitely paid off. "
The Dragons' inaugural 22-woman NRL Holden Women's Premiership squad will come together for pre-season on August 1, with the squad to be finalised in the coming weeks.
- New South Wales Origin (2018)
- New South Wales Country (2017-18)
- Combined Affiliated States (2018)
St George Illawarra's NRL Holden Women's Premiership squad (so far):
- Kezie Apps
- Sam Bremner
- Honey Hireme
- Rikeya Horne
- Raecene McGregor
- Talesha Quinn
- Oneata Schwalger
- Anneka Stephens
- Jessica Sergis
- Holli Wheeler