Thompson signs with Manly after Dragons grant release

Joel Thompson will wear the maroon and white of Manly in season 2018 after St George Illawarra granted the edge forward a release from the final year of his contract.

On the move: Joel Thompson has signed with Manly after being released by St George Illawarra. Picture: Christopher Chan.

On the move: Joel Thompson has signed with Manly after being released by St George Illawarra. Picture: Christopher Chan.

The Country representative, who joined the club in 2014, made the decision to depart the Dragons in order to secure his future beyond 2018. He will link up with Manly on a two-year deal.

Thompson played 85 games for the team and was thankful for the opportunities the club had provided him. 

"It's an emotional day leaving this great club,” Thompson said. “But with three girls and a young family I had to make that decision [to request a release].

"I've not only grown as a footballer but as a person at the Dragons. Everyone has helped me so much and I couldn't be more grateful and thankful for what they've done for me.”

The news comes just a day after the Dragons extended the contract of 21-year-old forward Luciano Leilua and recruitment manager Ian Millward confirmed the club will look to fill the void internally rather than through external recruitment.

"Joel and his management approached us about the long-term future he had at the Dragons. It was apparent Joel was looking to secure a long-term contract for his family beyond 2018," Millward said.

"We wanted Joel as part of our Top 30 this season so obviously we had a big decision to make. We said all along that we didn't want him to leave but we did respect what he was doing for his family long-term which is why we hesitantly granted him that permission.

"However we're very confident – with Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims, Luciano Leilua and Jacob Host – that we have the depth in the back row to replace Joel."

Thompson is confident the club’s emerging forwards will step up in his absence. 

"That was another part of my decision,” Thompson added. “I believe the young guys coming through now will step up, make that role their own and take this club to where it deserves to be."

Thompson’s future has been up in the air for a number of months, with a move to Manly speculated as far back as September. 

Manly coach Trent Barrett welcomed the news of Thompson’s pending arrival.

“Joel is a player I have admired for a long time,” Barrett said. “I coached him in the Country team a couple of years ago. 

“Not only is Joel a terrific bloke and a terrific leader but he is extremely competitive and very tough. He is a professional.

“Joel has played plenty of first grade and his experience is something I thought our squad needed.  Not only will the team benefit from it but also a lot of our young individuals will benefit too from having someone like Joel around.”

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