St George Illawarra have announced that 2017 Under-20s Player of the Year Jackson Ford has signed a three-year contract with the Dragons.
Ford will become a full-time development player for the 2018 and 2019 seasons and has been training with the first-grade squad since the start of the pre-season.
The Gerringong Lions junior has also been guaranteed a place in the Dragons’ Top 30 for the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership season.
Ford’s signing means the Dragons have fulfilled the minimum quota allocated for development players ahead of the 2018 season.
Dragons Director of Rugby League Pathways Ian Millward was excited by the 19-year-old back-rower’s potential.
“Jackson is a real project for us. He was selected in our Under-20s this season and while he is raw, he developed extremely well throughout the year,” Millward said.
“The plan is to prepare him for the 2020 season; we’ll get him bigger and stronger and hopefully more skilful. Jackson has a great attitude and his work rate is absolutely phenomenal.”
Millward added that the Dragons will be cautious in regards to the remaining development player spots within the squad, with Ford joining fellow Under-20s players Tristan Sailor and Steven Marsters in the full-time squad.
“Obviously everyone knows that in the NRL you have to have your Top 30 but then you’re allowed a minimum of three development players and maximum of six who will be full-time within the top squad,” Millward said.
“We do a lot of work on succession plans at the club and our three current development players are really good investments for our club moving forward.
“In saying that, we have to be very careful not to lock in the maximum amount of development players for the next two years because that could block a potential pathway for others.”