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NRLW squad bolstered as trio return

The Dragons are pleased to confirm that Zali Hopkins, Margot Vella, and Keele Browne have agreed to deals that will see them remain with the Red V.

Hopkins and Vella have both inked deals that will see them remain with the club until at least the end of the 2025 NRLW season whilst Browne has signed a one-year deal.

Hopkins debuted for the Dragons as a five-eighth back in 2022 and has played an important role in the squad over the past two seasons.

The soon-to-be 22-year-old impressed playing Oztag and Rugby Sevens as a youngster before making the switch to rugby league where she made a name for herself playing in the Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership for the Sharks.

“Zali has been a part of my system for a number of years now and she works really hard,” said Dragons NRLW head coach Jamie Soward.

“She’s played out of position, she’s learnt her craft, and she’s a really good team person to be around who will turn into a leader at our club. We’re really happy with the depth we've been able to get covering all positions and Zali typifies that.”

A former Waratah, Vella linked up with the Red V prior to the 2023 NRLW season and quickly made her mark.

She notched a double on debut against the Eels at WIN Stadium and went to make eight appearances throughout the season scoring five tries – the second-highest mark on the team – and averaging 68 run metres with 13 tackle breaks.

“Margot came from the Waratahs and, in her first year, I thought got some really good game knowledge under her belt,” Soward said.

“We’re very pleased to be able to have her back for two years. I think she’s developing and can play pretty much anywhere. She’s a competitor who I've really loved having in the team.”

A Milton-Ulladulla Bulldogs junior, Browne made her NRLW debut for the Dragons as a teenager in 2021 and came off the bench in the side’s Grand Final loss later that season.

Her 2023 campaign was cut short due to an ankle injury, but she returns in 2024 as one of the club’s longest tenured players.

“Keele’s been with me since I came to the club. She’s been a part of the Illawarra Steelers and come through the pathways, so she is an example that we like to bring girls right through from start to finish,” Soward said.

“She’s a strong ball-runner, elite with her fitness, and a really good team person. We’re looking forward to having her back for another year.”

Browne echoes Soward’s sentiments as she prepares to return for her fourth campaign as a Dragon.

“I'm really excited for this season,” Browne said.

“We were a pretty new group last season, but we have a lot of girls returning this year so we will be able to build where we left off.”

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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