St George Illawarra have struck the first recruitment blow for the inaugural women’s NRL competition, announcing the signing of former Cronulla player Talesha Quinn.
The Dragons unveiled Jillaroos trio Quinn, Kezie Apps and Sam Bremner as their initial marquee signings at St George Leagues Club on Tuesday.
St George Illawarra won a licence for the inaugural competition in March alongside the Sydney Roosters, Brisbane and the New Zealand Warriors. Of the six bids, South Sydney and Cronulla were unsuccessful for geographical reasons, with the Dragons’ ability to cover Sydney’s south as well as Illawarra giving them an edge.
Sharks CEO Barry Russell said at the time he was extremely disappointed and dumbfounded by the decision to omit the Sharks who are widely regarded as pioneers of women’s rugby league.
Quinn, a NSW representative who helped Australia win the World Cup in December, joined the Sharks after taking part in open trials with the club in November, 2016.
She moved to Sydney from Townsville where she had been posted with the army and began playing in the women’s nine-a-side series with Cronulla last season. Quinn also plays for Cronulla Caringbah in the NSWRL Women’s Premiership.
“At the start when Sharks missed out I was a little bit like ‘what happens if no one wants me to play’. I was kind of freaking out. But I was fortunate enough to get contacted by three clubs – Dragons, Roosters and Broncos,” Quinn said.
“I didn’t even think about any other clubs. Obviously Cronulla have done a lot for the women’s game and having the World Cup there. They’ve got a Tarsha Gale [Cup] side. They were the first ones to sign players last year under the Cronulla nines and I was part of that squad. So I kind of felt like I owed them in a way, they’ve given me a lot so I thought I’d definitely play there. But I’ve always wanted to be a part of the Dragons and it’s finally here.
“For me it was really overwhelming. At a point I kind of just wanted one club to contact me so I didn’t have to make that decision. Because I didn’t want to have to say no to anyone, obviously this is a massive thing. To be asked to play in it is huge in itself let alone having three different clubs contact you.
“But my decision came down to Kezie is here. She’s one of my best friends. I played with [Illawarra women’s competition club] Berkeley Eagles back in 2012 and that’s where my rep footy started before I moved up to Townsville with the defence force. It’s only fitting I come back to where it all started.
“I think every club is doing a one-year contract. Hopefully it builds next year. If it doesn’t I’ll obviously stay at Dragons. But at the moment I’m just concentrating on this year. I don’t know what’s going to happen if Cronulla get a bid next year. If Dragons go really well I’d be pretty silly to leave. So I’m just taking it one day at a time and just see what happens next year.”
Cronulla had Quinn, Corban McGregor, Jessica Sergis, Ruan Sims and Shontelle Stowers named in the NRL’s elite women’s squad in March alongside shire girl Maddie Studdon who is aligned with South Sydney through playing with Redfern.
A list of 60 marquee players identified by the NRL have been provided to the clubs with a recruitment window open to contract those players until June 11. The marquee window will be followed by a free agency window.
Dragons recruitment manager Richard Agar said the club could potentially sign more big name players from those clubs that missed out.
“I don’t want to get into the specifics of Cronulla and Souths other than it’s a shame for them they didn’t get a licence but hopefully in future the competition grows and they’ll be strong players within the competition,” he said.
“But it probably makes sense for us to see the girls, particularly the local girls who are playing up there, that have got a desire to play in the NRL and hopefully we can give some of those girls an opportunity.
“But, apart from the girls in our own area, we will look for the right fit of girl who we think can enhance first of all us on the playing field and secondly enhance the group in terms of culture.”