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St George Illawarra have confirmed that local junior quartet Adam Clune, Shaun Sauni-Esau and Max and Mat Feagai will join the Dragons' NRL development player squad ahead of the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership season.

The Dragons have fulfilled the maximum six-player quota as far as the development player squad is concerned, with five-eighth Jayden Sullivan and utility Hayden Lomax already confirmed for 2020.

NRL development players train full-time with the Top 30 squad, but aren't available for first grade selection before June 30. Jason Saab and Jackson Ford were examples of NRL development players who debuted in 2019. 

"We use all six of our development player squad positions as it is part of our pathways' philosophy when it comes to our local juniors and our systems," Director of Rugby League Pathways and List Management Ian Millward said.

"With the advancement now of Jason Saab, Eddie Blacker and Joe Lovodua into our Top 30, we had positions within the squad to fill. All six of our development players have excitedly come through our pathways system and high performance unit.

"Jayden is a special player who recently led his team to a Koori Knockout win and someone we have a high opinion of. We have pencilled him into our future moving forward, he's someone all Dragons fans should be excited about," Millward added.

"Hayden had a really disrupted 2019 with injuries but last year's experiences will be invaluable for him as he knows the environment, how hard the training is and also how tough physically and mentally it is dealing with injuries."

The Feagai twins have signed two-year development player deals following seasons that saw them both win the SG Ball premiership with Illawarra and represent New South Wales Under-18s and the Australia Schoolboys.

Both outside backs, the Feagais also made their Jersey Flegg Under-20s debuts for St George Illawarra in 2019.

"[Max and Mat] have had an unbelievable 2019. They're originally from Leeton but have been in our pathways since Harold Matthews and have advanced from there," Millward said.

"Sometimes you want to take your time with these young players because you put a lot of effort into them, but every NRL club was all over them so we decided to advance them to our development player squad.

"They're big, strong, powerful boys who could springboard straight away to the NRL, like Jason Saab was able to do last season."

Clune and Sauni-Esau join Dragons development squad.

Long-term Dragons lower grade playmaker Clune – who spent the off-season abroad volunteering in Kenya – has been rewarded with a one-year development deal following an outstanding season for the minor-premiership-winning Dragons Canterbury Cup NSW team.

"Adam came through our junior representative teams and Under-20s a number of years ago and has featured in Canterbury Cup since, where he's been one of the competition's prominent players," Millward said.

"In 2019, he had the most try assists and was named in the competition's Team of the Year. At 24 years old, we wanted to reward Adam, who has been patient and resilient for many seasons now. There's no reason why he can't play first grade.

Sauni-Esau has been another long-standing fixture of the Dragons' junior pathways following his promotion from the St George junior representative teams into the Under-20s and Canterbury Cup in recent years. He has signed a three-year deal and is set for a Top 30 promotion ahead of the 2022 season.

"2019 saw him kick it to another level and play a number of reserve grade games. Shaun is a genuine left centre – which is rare as most centres these days prefer playing on the right – so we're particularly excited about that," Millward said.

"In a full-time environment, he'll really blossom as he gets more experience playing against men."

The Dragons have also confirmed that Jersey Flegg captain Luke Gale, Paul McGregor Under-20s Player of the Year recipient Cody Ramsey and talented playmaker Tyran Wishart will participate in their first NRL pre-seasons ahead of the 2020 season.

Acknowledgement of Country

St George Illawarra Dragons respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples, where our games are played, our programs are conducted and in the communities we support.

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