The St George Illawarra Dragons have announced Kezie Apps, Shaylee Bent, Keeley Davis, Quincy Dodd and Holli Wheeler as its 2021 NRL Telstra Women's Premiership marquee signings.
The New South Wales Origin quintet's signings follow the NRL's implementation of a talent equalisation recruitment system; a result of the Gold Coast Titans, Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels entering the 2021 competition.
Of the 30 players within the NRL's centralised contract system, the Dragons were allocated hooker Davis and forwards Apps and Wheeler, who remain at the club, as well as fellow dummy half Dodd following three seasons at the Sydney Roosters.
Back-rower Bent was afforded a marquee spot with the Dragons upon the completion of this process.
NRLW coach Mat Head said the Dragons' marquee signings' desire to be at the club will hold the squad in good stead ahead of the Red V's fourth Women's Premiership campaign.
"All five of our marquee signings want to be at our club, who love the Red V and are looking forward to pulling that jersey on this season," Head said.
"From a club perspective, it's exactly what we want to see from everyone in our in squad. They are the players you look forward to coaching. The culture we are trying to build here starts with these five players.
"Kezie is already a big part of this club as is Keeley Davis who will eventually take over Kezie within the club environment given her leadership qualities.
"We were surprised that Shaylee wasn't in the marquee player squad to begin with but we're pleased to keep a representative player of her calibre and name her as one of our marquee players.
"You throw in the super professional Holli Wheeler who managed to play Origin despite coming off a knee reconstruction and new addition Quincy Dodd who will give us a real spark in attack, and you can't help but be excited by our marquee players."
The losses of Jessica Sergis, Tiana Penitani and Isabelle Kelly will be offset by the commitment of the soon-to-be announced 2021 squad that will be boosted by the Dragons' female women's pathways, according to Head.
"A big thing for us is we'll be based in Wollongong and train in the same facilities as the NRL team. That might mean a bit of travel for some but we pleased that many are willing to, which is exactly what we want to see at the Dragons," Head said.
"We are a development club too and when you look at the Tarsha Gale competition, this year St George won the grand final and Illawarra were minor premiers having won the previous season's competition.
"When you consider the recent introduction of our women's Dragons Academy, we are going to produce plenty of quality footballers including a number of up-and-coming stars that will be in our 2021 squad."
"We will have a squad that will help us build toward success over the next few years. We're not just here to win the competition this season, yes that's what we'll be aiming to do, but I want to see sustained success at St George Illawarra for years to come."
Dragons CEO Ryan Webb said: "There are plenty of positives to come out of our marquee signings, most of who are familiar faces to the club.
"We're particularly excited to see them lead the Dragons into this new era of the women's game and build a winning culture throughout our entire female program."
In a further boon for the Dragons' NRLW endeavours, Modus Projects have extended their apparel partnership to the club's Women's Premiership endeavours.
Modus Projects – one of Australia's leading providers of construction and facilities management – will feature as the Dragons' NRLW below-number partner in 2021.
"Modus Projects are excited to extend its support to the Dragons' NRL Women's Premiership team. Fittingly we are proud to be industry leaders of gender diversity in the construction space; 42 per cent of Modus's management team identify as female," Modus Projects CEO Brad Berryman said.
"We are also proud to unveil the opening of our Wollongong office, further aligning our community, brand and commercial partnership goals with the Dragons and their Illawarra catchment."
The Dragons look forward to announcing the remainder of its 24-woman squad in the coming weeks.
St George Illawarra's NRL Telstra Women's Premiership squad (so far):
- Kezie Apps
- Shaylee Bent
- Keeley Davis
- Quincy Dodd
- Holli Wheeler