St George Illawarra have announced the re-signing of four local juniors to the Dragons' NRL Holden Women's Premiership ranks ahead of season 2019.
Jillaroos duo, winger Rikeya Horne and utility Keeley Davis have recommitted to the club after playing every game of the Dragons' maiden Women's Premiership campaign.
Inaugural Dragons Women's Premiership development players Maddison Weatherall and Aaliyah Fasavalu-Fa'amausili have also been promoted to the 22-woman squad following their huge seasons for the Illawarra Steelers and St George Dragons' Tarsha Gale Cup teams respectively.
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The Red V's latest four signings reinforces the Dragons' commitment to and development of women's rugby league in the club's catchment areas, and that the club's genuine female player pathway is as strong as ever.
"The decision to bring development players into the Women's Premiership fold last year was a great choice made by the Dragons," Dragons coach Daniel Lacey said.
"To have the foresight to see that while certain players were too young to play NRL, they could still be around the group to constantly learn and feed off our senior players.
"It shows that there's not only a pathway here – but also if players are willing to do the hard work and put the effort in – the Dragons are willing to reward them. We're big on developing our local juniors but they're not token positions either, they're well-earned."
Wrecking ball front-rower Weatherall first played rugby league at local club Wests Devils, and is the current captain of the Tarsha Gale Cup premiership-winning Steelers.
This week, Weatherall will represent New South Wales Under-18s in their first ever game against Queensland, alongside eight other St George Illawarra junior representative players.
"My year spent as a development player in the full-time NRL women's squad has helped me a lot this year," Weatherall said.
"Even when it comes to the off the field aspects such as training and in the gym, it has helped me so much. So it's exciting for my family and I to make the step up into the NRL squad this year, especially for my dad because he's my number one fan."
Fasavalu-Fa'amausili is a key member of St George's Tarsha Gale Cup outfit and in recent months has represented Australia Prime Minister's XIII team against Papua New Guinea as well as New South Wales City at the recent National Championships.
"It means so much to sign with the Dragons. I've worked really hard to be where I am today. It's a great opportunity," Fasavalu-Fa'amausili said.
"Being a part of the first Dragons Women's Premiership team as a development player helped me with a lot. It showed that I had a lot of things I needed to work on and now I'm ready to show them how much I have improved."
Corrimal Cougars local juniors duo Horne and Davis are equally keen to return to the Dragons fold in 2019 following their breakout seasons last year.
Two other success stories of the Dragons' women's rugby league pathway, Davis finished 2018 as an Australia Jillaroo, while Horne travelled over to Papua New Guinea with the Prime Minister's XIII team.
"To be able to play for the Dragons for the second year is definitely a dream come true," Davis said.
"I'm really looking forward to continuing the culture we created last season and being back together as a group. I cannot wait to get back out there for the club."
Horne added: "I'm very excited to put on the Red V jersey again with the girls. It means everything playing for the Dragons.
"Rugby league plays a big role in my life and my family's. It's another great opportunity I've been given and I'm really grateful."
The Dragons' four latest Women's Premiership signings for 2019 leaves the club with nine spots to be filled ahead of September's competition.
The Dragons' Women's Premiership team is the pinnacle of the female rugby league pathway across the club's region – from Earlwood in Sydney to Bateman's Bay on the South Coast – with more than 15,000 girls and women from Under-6s to opens currently competing in our region across tackle, tag and touch football.
St George Illawarra's NRL Holden Women's Premiership squad (so far):
- Kezie Apps
- Shaylee Bent
- Keeley Davis
- Aaliyah Fasavalu-Fa'amausili
- Rikeya Horne
- Takilele Katoa
- Tiana Penitani
- Jessica Sergis
- Maddie Studdon
- Shakiah Tungai
- Botille Vette-Welsh
- Maddison Weatherall
- Holli Wheeler