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Luciano Leilua could make shock return to St George Illawarra Dragons

Luciano Leilua is in line to make a shock return to St George Illawarra after requesting an immediate release from North Queensland.

The 27-year-old forward is contracted to the Cowboys until the end of 2025, but the club is unlikely to stand in his way after a tumultuous stint in Townsville. Leilua last week pleaded guilty to low-range drink-driving after registering a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.052 last month. He was suspended from driving and fined $300.

The NRL integrity unit and the Cowboys are yet to determine whether any further sanction is necessary.

It was the second time Leilua has fronted court since his move north due to two domestic violence charges stemming from 2022. His three-month NRL suspension ended when NSW Police dropped the charges against him.

The Dragons were eyeing off Cowboys forwards Jason Taumalolo, Heilum Luki and Kulikefu Finefeuiaki, but have now turned their attention to Leilua. The Endeavour Sports High School product has formally requested a release, a move that is expected to make him a free agent. The Dragons are one of several clubs closely monitoring the situation.

Leilua has made 25 appearances for the Cowboys, a tally he was expected to add to this year under coach Todd Payten. However, the drink-driving incident will almost certainly result in the association coming to an end.

Luciano Leilua in action against the Tigers.

Luciano Leilua in action against the Tigers.Credit: NRL Photos

The Dragons have failed to land a big-name recruit after missing out on top targets including Joseph Manu, Addin Fonua-Blake and Tom Dearden. New coach Shane Flanagan has expressed interest in Leilua, believing he could add value to the squad in a second stint at the Red V.

The Dragons need to free up a roster spot after signing Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Christian Tuipulotu, Hame Sele, Tom Eisenhuth, Kyle Flanagan, Corey Allan and Jesse Marschke. One option could be to pay out the contract of Allen, who suffered a season-ending knee injury shortly after signing a one-year deal. The Dragons were contacted for comment.

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