The St George Illawarra Dragons have confirmed the arrival of back-rower Luciano Leilua after he was released by the North Queensland Cowboys.

Leilua, who was with the Cowboys since the middle of 2022, recently requested a release from the Townsville-based club after struggling to adjust to life in the north.

After impressing during his time with the Wests Tigers, Leilua failed to make a great impact in the second half of 2022 before missing a chunk of 2023 under the NRL's no-fault stand-down rule.

His return saw him fail to hit the heights he had previously reached, and he entered 2024 with no guarantee of playing time, given North Queensland also has Jeremiah NanaiHeilum Luki and breakout star Kulikefu Finefeuiaki in their ranks to play on the edge.

“We're delighted to bring Luciano back to the Dragons, where he started his career. As a powerful and skillful edge forward, he will make our roster stronger as we head into the season," coach Shane Flanagan said.

While his contract is currently undisclosed, it is understood that the Dragons poached him on a deal worth $900,000 per season, according to previous reports from several publications.

Leilua had also been linked with the Canberra Raiders, who have been heavily involved in the market for second-rowers but ultimately decided against making a play for Leilua after his price tag to leave Townsville was revealed.