St George Illawarra have announced that front-rower Josh Kerr and utility Joe Lovodua have re-signed with the club, while winger Jason Saab has been promoted to the Dragons' Top 30 ahead of the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
Kerr enjoyed a stellar 2019 season where he represented the Indigenous All Stars for the first time and was rewarded his NRL debut in Round 2 last season.
With seven first grade games now to his name, Kerr is looking forward to bigger and better things in 2020 after signing a one-year extension.
"I'm very excited to sign again with the Dragons. I've been here for three seasons now, and from where I've come from to where I am now, for the club to help me live out my dream [of playing first grade] the only thing left for me to do was to re-sign and hopefully take my game to another level," Kerr said.
"2019 was the biggest year for me by far. I didn't have the greatest year the season prior but the coaching and performance staff showed a lot of faith in me and helped me reach where I needed to be.
"I need to keep working hard now. Nothing is ever promised in rugby league, so I'm looking forward to the challenges ahead in 2020."
Director of Rugby League Pathways and List Management Ian Millward said he was hopeful Kerr would lock down a permanent spot in the Dragons' 17 next season.
"Josh has been a really good story for us. We took him out of the Melbourne Storm system where he was a Queensland Origin Under-20s player. He's been a really good project for our club and we are proud of his progress so far," Millward said.
"He's not only the fastest forward at our club over 40 metres but statistically he has one of the quickest play-the-balls in the NRL, which is why we had opposition from other clubs trying to sign him.
"We are really looking forward to him playing many NRL games for the Dragons in 2020. He's at a stage now where he should be putting his hand up and demanding a first grade spot."
Saab – who remains contracted to the Red V until at least the end of the 2022 season – has been promoted to the NRL Top 30 a year earlier than initially anticipated.
Saab made his NRL debut in Round 19 this year, and although injury prevented him from seeing out the 2019 season, he'd finish the year with three first games and three tries to his name.
"We dipped Jason's toes in the NRL waters last year and he's made great strides ever since. With him making his first grade debut in 2019, we wanted to advance him into our Top 30 so he's available for selection from Round 1," Millward said.
"He's a player we have earmarked to be a long-term Dragons winger and we're excited by his progress so far."
Fiji international Lovodua – who will feature against Samoa on Saturday afternoon – has been re-signed for a further season and will progress to the Dragons' Top 30 in 2020, after spending the previous two seasons in the club's development player squad.
Lovodua proved his capabilities in numerous positions in 2019 and was consistently one of the Dragons' best in the minor premiership-winning Canterbury Cup team.
"Joe has progressed through the same pathway as Jason Saab in regards to being St George juniors and progressing through to our Top 30 from the development player squad," Millward said.
"He's a real multi-skilled player Joe; it's hard to put your finger on what his position is. He can play centre, five-eighth, hooker and in the back row, but has really shown he's capabilities at No. 9 especially when representing Fiji."
Saab and Lovodua join Dragons top 30
Following the re-signings of Kerr and Lovodua and Saab's promotion to the Top 30, the Dragons have now reached the required quota of 24 players signed before November 1. This includes back-rower Tyson Frizell who remains contracted to the club.
"What is really excited is that of the 24 players contracted, 22 of them have played first grade. Those who haven't are previous development players in Joe and Eddie Blacker, who was always transitioning into our Top 30 in 2020," Millward said.
"It goes to show our pathways are working too. Whether it be (Jacob) Host, Luciano (Leilua) and (Matt) Dufty, through to those who debuted last year in Tristan (Sailor), Jackson Ford and Jason (Saab), we won't be short on first grade experience.
"We have six spots to fill now and I'm sure out of that we will bring players with first grade experience into our organisation ahead of 2020."