The St George Illawarra Dragons today announce the signing of Russell Packer to a two-year playing contract following approval this week from the NRL.

Packer, 26, will officially join the Dragons squad for 2016 and 2017 whilst at the same time, continuing to maintain his commitment to Dragons Community programs and his personal and professional development outside of rugby league.

“I am very thankful and grateful for the opportunity to return to the NRL with the Dragons,” said Packer. “I have learned a great deal and changed a lot over the past two years and I couldn’t be happier with where things are at for me and my family.

“My family and so many people at the Dragons and the NRL have shown great faith in me and I look forward to repaying them for their belief and support over the coming seasons both on and off the field”.

In May, Packer was registered to play with the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Cup, and he finished the season as the team’s Captain and “Player of the Year”.

In August, Packer was cleared to train full-time with the Dragons NRL squad, which was around the same time that he began studying a Bachelor of Business at University, following completion of a Certificate IV in Community Services at TAFE Illawarra in the first half of the year.

“Our Club has strong programs and standards with respect to Education and Welfare and Russell’s commitment and progress this year has been exemplary;” said Dragons CEO Peter Doust.

“Russell has achieved above and beyond the established requirements and he has had a very positive attitude and approach to not only what has been required, but also to the additional activities that he has chosen to initiate and complete of his own accord with respect to his professional and personal development.

“Russell has already proved to be a valuable contributor through his work with our younger players and in our Dragons Community Department where he played a key role in a number of programs, including our ‘Score Dragons’ program that recently won the NRL Club Community Program of the Year.

At regular intervals throughout the year the NRL were provided with thorough updates on Packer’s progress with respect to his welfare and education from internal and external parties and the approval of a playing contract comes as a result of his achievements and progression over a sustained period of time.

As expected, Packer’s playing contract has some particular conditions with respect to him maintaining his education and welfare activities with which Packer and the Dragons do not foresee any problems.

The former Kiwi International began his rugby league career with the New Zealand Warriors in 2008 and has played 110 NRL Games to date.