Merrin, Leilua, Prior and King head in and out of St George Illawarra, Cronulla

Back home: 2010 premiership-winning forward Trent Merrin has returned to St George Illawarra. Picture: John Veage
Back home: 2010 premiership-winning forward Trent Merrin has returned to St George Illawarra. Picture: John Veage

St George Illawarra and Cronulla moved a step closer to finalising their 2020 NRL squads with a handful of players moving in and out of the clubs.

At the Dragons, 2010 grand final-winning hero Trent Merrin has returned to the club after signing a two-year-deal.

The veteran forward, who made 133 appearances in the red V across seven seasons, made his debut for St George Illawarra in 2009.

Merrin spent three years at Penrith before joining Super League club Leeds.

The 30-year-old has played 13 Origins for NSW and seven Tests for Australia across his 11-year first grade career.

Merrin took Luciano Leilua's place in the Dragons roster after the young forward was granted a release to join the Wests Tigers on a three-year deal.

Dragons director of rugby league pathways Ian Millward said Merrin would add further experience after the acquisition of veteran hooker Issac Luke.

"Trent could've jumped like a kangaroo all the way back to Australia he's that excited to come back to the Dragons," Millward said.

"Trent has indicated to the club several times over the past 12 months that he'd love to come home. An opportunity for this has since come up after the club granted Luciano his requested release.

"Luciano indicated he wouldn't be renewing his contract with the Dragons beyond the 2020 season. As a result we'll be able to do a multiple things as far as overall recruitment is concerned with Luciano's money.

"Trent brings plenty of experience to the Dragons' forward pack and is someone who is really passionate and can't wait to put the red V back on.

"Trent will be a player who will hit the ground running straight away. He's a confident player who will be very good around the group as far as his demeanour is concerned.

"Along with Issac he'll bring a wealth of experience. Both players have played at the highest level and played in premiership-winning seasons."

Meanwhile at Cronulla, premiership-winning prop Matt Prior has left the Sharks to fill the hole left by Merrin's departure at Leeds.

Cronulla released Prior from the final year of his contract allowing the 2016 Monty Porter Medal winner to sign a two-year deal with the Rhinos.

Prior was part of the Dragons' 2010 and Sharks' 2016 title-winning teams, playing 255 NRL games.

"I've really enjoyed my time at the Sharks," Prior said.

"I want to thank all my teammates, coaches and staff as well as the club, the members and the fans for their support in my six years at Cronulla.

"While sad to be leaving the Sharks, I'm really looking forward to joining Leeds and to playing some good footy for them from next season in the Super League."

Prior's departure will add to the new-look feel about the Sharks in 2020 having already lost Paul Gallen (retired), Jayden Brailey (Knights), Kyle Flanagan (Roosters), Sosaia Feki (Castleford) and Kurt Capewell (Panthers).

Sharks coach John Morris said the club did not want to lose Prior but had little choice given the restraints of the club's salary cap fine for next season.

Cronulla have also boosted their squad depth with the signing of Cameron King.

A standout junior who represented NSW under-18s, Australian Schoolboys and Junior Kangaroos before being hampered by serious injuries, King has signed a one-year deal with the Sharks.

An Endeavour Sports High School product, who played under now Sharks NRL assistant coach Dave Howlett, King had stints at St George Illawarra, North Queensland and Parramatta as well as a brief spell in the UK before returning to the shire.

The 28-year-old joined Cronulla for training on Monday.

"It was good to get here, meet everyone and jump straight into it," King said.

"I wasn't sure I'd get another opportunity in the NRL, so I'm grateful to be back. It's good to get here and I'm excited about the year ahead."

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