Dragons release Macdonald, sign three more
St George Illawarra have today released Nene Macdonald from the final year of his Dragons playing contract on compassionate grounds.
Macdonald has played 46 games for the Dragons since joining at the beginning of the 2017 season. He has signed with another NRL team for the 2019 season and beyond.
Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward said Macdonald had been a fine servant to the club over the past two seasons and wished him well in his future endeavours.
"Nene has been an important player over the last two seasons at our club, and although he has one year left on his contract, his management and himself approached the club on compassionate reasons for a release," Millward said.
"We thought it was in the best interests welfare-wise for Nene to grant him the release, so unfortunately he won't be with us in 2019."
Macdonald's release has allowed the Dragons to announce the signings of three outside backs in Mikaele Ravalawa, Jonus Pearson and Jason Saab.
Ravalawa joins the Red V from the Canberra Raiders on a two-year deal, and will be at the club until at least the end of the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
A member of the Fiji Bati's successful Rugby League World Cup squad, Ravalawa was also Canberra' Under-20s Player of the Year in 2017.
In 2018, Ravalawa scored 11 tries and produced 66 tackle breaks in 13 appearances for the Raiders' feeder team Mounties.
"Mika is really exciting and by securing him we have signed a player who has shown he's capable of scoring numerous tries and has a high try-scoring rate," Millward said.
"He's very quick and extremely good in the air, and while he hasn't played first grade, we were looking to help generate a player coming through the ranks into a really good NRL player and we believe he has the ability to do that."
The Dragons have secured the services of Broncos outside back Pearson for the next two seasons; tying him to the club until at least the end of 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
Pearson made his NRL debut late in 2016 and has played 11 first grade games to date.
"Jonus is another exciting prospect for the Dragons. At 23 years of age, we think he'll come into his prime at the Dragons," Millward said.
"When we look at outside backs, two factors we focus on in with our criteria is speed and their ability to jump for the ball, and Jonus certainly ticks all those boxes."
St George Dragons SG Ball winger Saab has signed a four-year deal with the Red V.
Saab will join the development player squad for the next two years, before he joins the NRL Top 30 for the 2021 and 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership seasons.
The Under-18s New South Wales representative was highly sought after across the game, which was justified in his recent selection for the Australian Schoolboys.
"Jason is a player we've developed through the local ranks. He's tall and athletic, and while we want to develop him slowly, when he has the talent that he has he might be [pushing for higher honours] sooner rather than later," Millward said.
"We believe he has a huge future at the Dragons moving forward."
Millward confirmed the Dragons' desire of signing another outside back to the club's 2019 roster.
"We are still on the lookout but we want to be patient once again. We don't feel at the moment what we're looking for is currently out there," Millward said.
"We have certain criteria's that we're looking at and we don't want to compromise ourselves by signing someone just to make up the numbers.
"We're really excited about the players we're bringing in – keeping in mind that Zac Lomax is an outstanding prospect – but we're still on the lookout for one more player."
Ravalawa, Pearson and Saab will join Broncos prop Korbin Sims as the new faces at the Dragons in 2019.
They follow the likes of Cameron McInnes, Matt Dufty, Zac Lomax, Jeremy Latimore Luciano Leilua, Jordan Pereira, Joe Lovodua and Josh Kerr who all extended their stay with the Dragons this season.