In-demand Jillaroos playmaker Caitlin Moran will miss the inaugural NRL women's premiership with a knee injury as clubs begin tabling offers to players after agreement was reached on the terms for their contracts.
Moran, who ruptured her ACL sidestepping in a match for Souths Logan last weekend, was expected to be one of the first players signed after recently relocating from Newcastle to Brisbane for the chance to work with the Broncos through an education traineeship.
Sydney Roosters were also believed to be interested in the 21-year-old halfback, along with fellow Jillaroos playmaker Maddie Studdon, who were expected to form the NSW scrum-base in the June 22 Women’s State of Origin at North Sydney Oval.
NSW and Australian team-mates Kezie Apps and Sam Bremner are set to be the first players to sign with St George Illawarra after receiving formal expressions of interest from the club for whom both work in ambassador roles.
"They are the obvious ones for us and we just felt it was right to get those two done first so we have given them letters of offer," Dragons recruitment manager Richard Agar said.
"We've sent five or six of those out and will probably send another couple out today. We want to focus on local talent but we also want to try to get some players who can help mould what the Dragons team will be in years to come and be role models and mentors for some of the younger girls."
The Dragons are also expected to make offers to Ruan Sims and her sister Canecia, who were born and raised in Gerringong and whose brother Tariq plays for the club, as well as Jillaroos winger Rikeya Horne, who plays in the Illawarra competition, along with Apps and Bremner.
The NRL and RLPA last week finalised the terms of marquee contracts for the top 40 NRL Elite Playing Squad and playing agreements for the Holden NRL Women's Premiership, which will be contested by the Broncos, Dragons, Roosters and New Zealand Warriors.
The New Zealand Rugby League will select an additional 20 players, who will join a 60-strong pool of talent for the NRL clubs to choose from.
However, the four clubs are restricted to a maximum of 15 players each in their 22-strong squads for the competition, which will be played as double-headers with NRL finals matches.
Clubs will use this week's Harvey Norman Women's National Championship and Talent ID on the Gold Coast to identify other recruits, while the Dragons plan to sign some young players from their Illawarra and St George Under 18s Tarsha Gale Cup teams.
Players from other codes, including women's AFL and rugby union, have registered for the Talent ID, while the National Championship will feature teams representing NSW City, NSW Country, Queensland City, Queensland Country, Combined Affiliate States and Australian Defence Force.
"I think all eyes will be down there over the weekend from an NRL club point of view, just to get a gauge of some of the players," Broncos game development manager Paul Dyer said.
"There is a ton of girls who have thrown their hands up and want to play since the announcement of the competition, there are players from other codes who have expressed an interest to be a part of it so there is a little bit to play out.
"I know the Sydney clubs are in the same boat in terms of starting to be active and offering girls the opportunity to play for their clubs so those conversations are taking place now but we are not in a position to announce any signings yet."
Moran, who took to social media on Monday night with the news of her injury, had been due to play for NSW Country but now faces a lengthy stint on the sidelines to recover from knee surgery.
"It is shattering for her as a young girl who is probably at the peak of her powers as far as playing goes, to think she is going to miss the season," Dyer said.
"She was playing here in a local game on the weekend and I think she has just done it stepping in mid-air."
Moran is not the only member of the women's elite top 40 squad to have suffered a setback in recent weeks with Tahlulah Tillet and Jasmin Allende also undergoing knee reconstructions.