The Dragons have secured Josh Kerr and Joe Lovodua to new new deals while Jason Saab has been promoted to St George Illawarra’s top 30 ahead of the 2020 NRL season.
Kerr flourished in 2019, with the front-rower making his debut round 2 and representing the Indigenous All Stars for the first time.
The Dragons prop has signed a one-year deal to extend his seven game first grade career into the 2020 season.
“I’m very excited to sign again with the Dragons. I’ve been here for three seasons now, and from where I’ve come from to where I am now, for the club to help me live out my dream [of playing first grade] the only thing left for me to do was to re-sign and hopefully take my game to another level,” Kerr said.
“2019 was the biggest year for me by far. I didn’t have the greatest year the season prior but the coaching and performance staff showed a lot of faith in me and helped me reach where I needed to be.
“I need to keep working hard now. Nothing is ever promised in rugby league, so I’m looking forward to the challenges ahead in 2020.”
Ian Millward, Director of Rugby League Pathways and List Management, expressed his admiration for Kerr and hopes he can break into the Dragons’ 17-man side.
“Josh has been a really good story for us. We took him out of the Melbourne Storm system where he was a Queensland Origin Under-20s player. He’s been a really good project for our club and we are proud of his progress so far,” Millward said.
“He’s not only the fastest forward at our club over 40 metres but statistically he has one of the quickest play-the-balls in the NRL, which is why we had opposition from other clubs trying to sign him.
“We are really looking forward to him playing many NRL games for the Dragons in 2020. He’s at a stage now where he should be putting his hand up and demanding a first grade spot.”
Saab – who is currently signed until the end of the 2022 season – has been promoted to the the NRL Top 30 a year earlier than first expected.
After making his debut in round 19, Saab scored three tries in his three matches for the season before suffering a season ending injury.
“We dipped Jason’s toes in the NRL waters last year and he’s made great strides ever since. With him making his first grade debut in 2019, we wanted to advance him into our Top 30 so he’s available for selection from Round 1,” Millward said.
“He’s a player we have earmarked to be a long-term Dragons winger and we’re excited by his progress so far.”
Lovodua – who will play for Fiji on Saturday in their clash with Samoa – has also signed on with a one-year extension and will push for the clubs Top 30 after two seasons in the Dragons development squad.
Lovodua was consistently a key piece in his sides minor premiership-winning Canterbury Cup side in 2019, proving he has the ability to take the next step in his career.
“Joe has progressed through the same pathway as Jason Saab in regards to being St George juniors and progressing through to our Top 30 from the development player squad,” Millward said.
“He’s a real multi-skilled player Joe; it’s hard to put your finger on what his position is. He can play centre, five-eighth, hooker and in the back row, but has really shown he’s capabilities at No. 9 especially when representing Fiji.”
The trio signings mean the Dragons meet their 24-man squad before the November 1st deadline, with back-rower Tyson Frizell remaining contracted with the club.
“What is really excited is that of the 24 players contracted, 22 of them have played first grade. Those who haven’t are previous development players in Joe and Eddie Blacker, who was always transitioning into our Top 30 in 2020,” Millward said.
“It goes to show our pathways are working too. Whether it be (Jacob) Host, Luciano (Leilua) and (Matt) Dufty, through to those who debuted last year in Tristan (Sailor), Jackson Ford and Jason (Saab), we won’t be short on first grade experience.
“We have six spots to fill now and I’m sure out of that we will bring players with first grade experience into our organisation ahead of 2020.”