Honey Hireme no longer plays for St George Illawarra but the experience the Kiwi Ferns superstar had at the club last season has been credited for other big-name stars wanting to join the Dragons.
Brittany Breayley, the 2018 Dally M player of the year, Kimiora Nati, who was the inaugural Karyn Murphy Medal winner as player of the grand final, and 2017 international player of the year Teuila Fotu-Moala head a star-studded list of recruits for the upcoming NRL Holden Women’s Premiership.
Nati, Fotu-Moala, Maitua Feteriki and Ngatokotoru Arakua were members of the Kiwi Ferns squad for last year’s Test against the Jillaroos at Mt Smart Stadium and Dragons captain Kezie Apps believes they wanted to join the club after hearing how much Hireme enjoyed her stint in the Red V.
The quartet also played alongside Breayley in Brisbane’s history-making NRLW premiership-winning team and the Jillaroos hooker has made the move to St George Illawarra with them.
“I feel like Honey Hireme has had a big influence on some of those girls coming down and I think the experience she had at the Dragons was one that she absolutely loved,” Apps said.
“We had these players knocking on our door wanting to come and join the Dragons after hearing about the culture we had here last year.
“Knowing that the girls had a really good time and a really great experience had an influence on those sort of players wanting to come and join the Dragons.”
Hireme will play for the Warriors this season and after returning home to New Zealand she has helped to revive a women's competition in the Waikato by taking on a captain-coach role with Hamilton City Tigers.
“Honey loves what the Dragons are about, how we are a development club and what we have done with women’s rugby league in the area, from under 16s and under 18s to the opens,” Apps said.
“We are in it for the long haul, we didn’t get a licence just because we wanted to have a side in the competition, we wanted it because we have been building it for a long time.”
Apps plays for Helensburgh in the Illawarra Women’s Premiership, while Keeley Davis, Rikeya Horne and Shakiah Tungai are local juniors who became representative stars last season.
The Dragons have also promoted 2018 development players Maddison Weatherall and Aaliyah Fasavalu-Fa’amausili to the squad of 22 which will begin training on August 13.
NSW halfback Maddie Studdon is another star with local links after beginning her career at Helensburgh.
Studdon will be joined at St George Illawarra by former Sydney Roosters team-mate Bottille Vette-Welsh.
In total, the Dragons squad will boast eight Jillaroos and four Kiwi Ferns representatives, as well as emerging star such as Tiana Penitani, who was player of the tournament at the recent National Championships.
With a combination of big-name stars and local talent, St George Illawarra will be one of the favourites for the NRLW title and the club has launched a $50 Dragons Women’s Premiership membership package to enable fans to support the team.
“We have still got our local girls and our local talent, which is awesome, and the development players from last year but to have the Broncos girls and Maddie from the Roosters is really exciting,” Apps said.
“They are players you don’t want to play against because you know how good they are so to have them in our squad is exciting and I can’t wait to start training and building those combinations.
“It is just awesome that so many girls wanted to come and join the Dragons and join the culture we have created and hopefully continue to grow.”