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Sharks forward Ava Seumanufagai.

Cronulla prop Ava Seumanufagai will link with Leeds Rhinos, potentially allowing Cronulla to add James Segeyaro to their top 30 NRL squad.

As a result of their salary cap penalty the Sharks are operating at $353,000 below the cap for this year and next, with Segeyaro unable to register his own deal with the club earlier this year as a result.

Instead Segeyaro signed a contract with Cronulla's feeder side Newtown, keeping him in contention for a top 30 upgrade once the Sharks freed up space in their first grade squad.

Segeyaro has been training each week with John Morris's team before turning out for the Jets in reserve grade, as he has been named to do again this week against North Sydney.

The Sharks have not yet finalised an official release for Seumanufagai but Leeds have announced his signing with immediate effect. understands Seumanufagai's arrival at the Rhinos is not linked to the future of former NSW and Kangaroos lock Trent Merrin, who has been granted leave to return to Australia on personal grounds.

Merrin has told Leeds he will return to the UK next week as planned following a death on his partner's side of the family.

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He has been linked to a return with his junior club St George Illawarra, however it is understood the Dragons do not have salary cap space to accommodate the 29-year-old.

The club is unwilling to source a replacement for Jack de Belin until after his case against the ARL Commission is heard in Federal Court this month.

But even with potential salary cap relief it's unlikely the Dragons could afford Merrin, who is just months into a multimillion-dollar four-year deal with Leeds.

Seumanufagai meanwhile departs the NRL after 118 games for the Tigers and the Sharks, having been reluctant at first to make the move given his daughter is just 18 months old.

"We are delighted to get the deal finally done to sign Ava," Leeds director of football Kevin Sinfield said.

"He is a player we have been monitoring for a while and it is good that we have secured him until the end of the 2021 season. Ava is a big player with a great work ethic.

"I would like to thank Cronulla Sharks for their help in getting the deal agreed and we look forward to welcoming Ava into our group once all the necessary paperwork has been completed."

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