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The Illawarra Rugby League, Illawarra Steelers and Dragons have today announced a unique partnership with the formation and entry of an Illawarra team into the NSW Cup competition for 2012.
The team will be known as "Illawarra" and (while a team logo has yet to be confirmed), it can be confirmed that the colours will be the District's traditional "Scarlet and White". The Illawarra team will be looking to play their home matches at WIN Stadium and will be able to utilise contracted players from both the NRL and NYC squad of the St George Illawarra Dragons while also offering Illawarra Carlton League players the opportunity.
The Dragons have been looking to establish a long-term partnership to provide the highest quality of playing opportunities for their extended squad and believe it is now the time and place to support a regional Illawarra initiative.
"The Dragons have been keen to support the NSW Cup and its position in the infrastructure of rugby league in NSW," said Dragons CEO Peter Doust. "The Illawarra region is a stronghold of rugby league and we believe this initiative is timely and appropriate.
"It is fitting that we are able to announce this partnership in the Illawarra Rugby League's Centenary year. To have the full endorsement of the joint venture partners in this initiative is further evidence of our shared vision," added Sean O'Conner, Chair of the Football Management Sub-Committee. "We will work closely with the Dragons to ensure an integrated pathway for talented footballers in the Illawarra."
The Illawarra team will be coached by former Australia, NSW and Dragons centre Paul McGregor, who recently guided Wests Illawarra in the Carlton League to their third consecutive premiership. McGregor will be assisted by former Dragons hooker Shane Millard.
"I am looking forward to the next challenge in my coaching career and to be able to do that with an Illawarra district team in the NSW Cup is fantastic," said McGregor. "I am excited about the opportunity and the role this squad will play in the development of players in the Illawarra".
Furthermore, Dragons Junior Representative and High Performance Manager Neil Lovett will be in charge of the team's administration, Steelers Deputy Chairman Sean O'Connor will chair the team's Football Management Sub-Committee, which will also include Chairman of the Carlton League Ian Neill, Steelers Director Graeme Gulloch and representatives of the St George Illawarra Dragons.
The Illawarra team will serve as the official Dragons "feeder club", to enable the St George and Illawarra Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams to participate in their respective NSWRL competitions in 2012 and beyond.
The key to the long-term success of the Illawarra team and brand are key sponsorship relationships and other key partnership opportunities, which will be developed as the partnership grows.