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Tauaneai, Patea ink NRLW development deals

The Dragons are pleased to announce that Trinity Tauaneai and Jessica Patea have signed NRLW development deals for the 2024 season.

The pair grew up together in Lower Hutt, Wellington and spent their junior days as teammates playing for the Wainuiomata Lions.

Tauaneai – who is the younger sister of Dragons lock Alexis – will have her contract upgraded to a full-time deal in 2025.

A workhorse forward with the ability to play in the middle or on an edge, Tauaneai is in the midst of her first Lisa Fiaola Cup campaign with the Bulldogs.

The 17-year-old is excited to be joining her older sister and childhood friend at the Red V.

“It's pretty exciting, especially to be doing it with Jess and Lex,” Tauaneai said.

“I'm pretty excited to play with them again. Our combo and our chemistry work well together... Me and Lex being at the same club now has made our family proud and they're following our journey and are happy that we're doing it with the Dragons.”

The Tauaneai family made the move to Sydney in April last year in pursuit of their daughters’ rugby league dreams.

Tauaneai is excited to link up with NRLW head coach Jamie Soward who handed her sister a debut jersey almost a year ago.

“Hearing all the horror stories that Alexis told about preseason last year have me mentally preparing myself,” she laughed.

“He has a good connection with my family now and him working with Lex has made me keen... I just want to keep building on my own skills that I have now and keep learning.”

Patea, meanwhile, comes to the Dragons having made a name for herself across the ditch and with the Bulldogs Tarsha Gale Cup outfit.

A versatile and crafty athlete with the capacity to cover multiple positions in the backline, Patea says it is surreal to be joining the Dragons alongside Trinity and Alexis.

“It feels really like not real but I'm so, so happy and honoured to be able to sign with the Dragons and work with the coaching staff and some of my friends from back home,” Patea said.

“Having my girls from back home who I've been playing with since we were like 10 is so special... Just how highly they've been speaking about the coaching and just everything that's been happening. It's really exciting. I'm just speechless thinking about it.”

The 18-year-old moved to Sydney earlier this year to continue her rugby league journey which she says was sparked by watching her father and uncle play during her childhood.

“I'm still settling in, but it's been good so far,” she said.

“I started playing league because of my dad. He played for the Wainuiomata Lions back in the day with my uncle.”

Soward is looking forward to the teenagers linking up with the club in preparation for the side’s upcoming season.

“I’m really excited to have Trinity and Jess involved with the Dragons,” Soward said.

“Trinity is a versatile talent that can play on the edge but has the toughness and smarts to play in the middle. She is a lovely person who fits into the culture of what we are building at the Dragons.

“Jess is a super talent that has come across after winning the New Zealand under-18s Player of the Year award. She’s a unique talent that can play anywhere in the outside backs and has a real desire to be the best.”

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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