“It will be a question for St George Illawarra fans to debate in the countdown to next season.
Who got the best of the deal that has seen Luciano Leilua traded to the Wests Tigers to allow for Trent Merrin’s return to the Dragons?
Merrin will make a St George Illawarra comeback while the Dragons are also chasing another Super League player.
Merrin returns on a two year deal at the club he made his debut at in 2009 after gaining a release from Super League club Leeds.
The move impacts a host of players with his 2010 premiership teammate Matt Prior taking his place at the Rhinos which will ease significant salary cap pressure at the Sharks.
Merrin’s arrival will also allow Leilua to take up a multi-year deal to join the Wests Tigers immediately after being granted an early release from his Dragons deal.
The Daily Telegraph understands Leilua has just agreed to a three-year deal worth an estimated $1.3 million at the Tigers.
Leilua’s agent Mario Tartak confirmed Leilua, a local junior, did not want to leave the Dragons but was pretty much shown the door to help accommodate Merrin’s return.
The Dragons are also trying to sign former Parramatta and Manly outside back Brayden Wiliame.
The 26-year-old has spent the past three seasons with English Super League club Catalans and was part of their Challenge Cup victory last year.
Wiliame has predominantly played in the centres but has also spent time on the wing.
The Dragons have been relative quiet in the player market heading into 2020. Merrin and potentially Wiliame will join Issac Luke with the veteran hooker the Dragons only official signing to date.
Merrin fell-out with the club’s management which contributed to his defection to Penrith in 2016.
He has played 205 top grade NRL games before featuring for Leeds this year.
Merrin has been keen to return home for some time with discussions to bring him back to St George Illawarra happening as early as the middle of the season as a potential replacement for the suspended Jack de Belin.
But his rich Leeds deal and the Dragons tight salary cap made any move difficult. The two parties met again recently before Merrin return to Leeds”.
-Michael Carayannis and Paul Crawley