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Merrin rejoins Dragons, Prior off to Leeds

Leeds Rhinos have confirmed the signing of former NSW forward Matt Prior and granted Trent Merrin a release to take up a contract with St George Illawarra.

Former Kangaroos and Blues prop Merrin has rejoined the joint-venture club after Prior agreed a two-year deal with the Rhinos after leaving Cronulla.

Merrin linked up with the Super League side last season after being forced out of Penrith over salary cap issues.

He began his career with the Dragons, debuting in 2009 and going on to win the 2010 grand final before leaving for the Panthers in 2015.

Despite having three years to run on his current deal with Leeds, Merrin asked for permission to return home with his partner Jess pregnant with the couple's first child.

"Trent could've jumped like a kangaroo all the way back to Australia he's that excited to come back to the Dragons," said the club's director of rugby league pathways and list management Ian Millward.

"Trent has indicated to the club several times over the past 12 months that he'd love to come home; an opportunity for this has since come up.

"He brings plenty of experience to the Dragons' forward pack and is someone who is really passionate and can't wait to put the Red V back on."

"Trent will be a player who will hit the ground running straight away. He's a confident player who will be very good around the group as far as his demeanour is concerned."

Merrin will take Luciano Leilua's vacated spot in the Dragons squad after the second-rower was granted a release from the final year of his contract.

Leeds said they were disappointed to lose Merrin, who was the club's captain, but understood his reasons for departing.

"On behalf of everyone at the Rhinos, we would like to wish Trent and Jess all the best for their future back in Australia," said Leeds coach Richard Agar.

"I know this is something that Trent has tried hard to resolve but in the end his family comes first and he will leave with our best wishes.

"We were already in the process of signing Matt and I was looking forward to seeing him lining up alongside Trent but unfortunately, that will not be possible now."

Prior has played more than 250 games in the NRL and played for NSW in 2018. He won the premiership with the Sharks in 2016 and the Dragons alongside Merrin six years earlier.

He was an ever-present for the Sharks last season, starting all but one game.

"I know that Leeds Rhinos have a fantastic history but have had some tough times in recent years," Prior said.

"Hopefully I can play my part in lifting the club's fortunes and get us back to challenging for silverware again.

"It's an exciting time to be moving to Super League with players like Sonny Bill Williams, Gareth Widdop and George Burgess coming into an unforgiving competition and I can't wait to get involved."

© AAP 2019