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George Clarke

Hot talent Tamale gives Dragons reason to be optimistic

Savelio Tamale is lining up to be St George Illawarra's best kept secret heading into the season. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

Long-suffering St George Illawarra fans could be forgiven for feeling a little underwhelmed by their off-season recruitment.

But the Dragons' best-kept secret may come from within.

After a scrimmage match against Manly earlier this month, coach Shane Flanagan was quick to namecheck a teenager called Savelio Tamale as an option to play in the centres this year. 

The Dragons are stacked with depth - Jack Bird, Moses Suli and Zac Lomax - in the three-quarter line, but the fleet-footed Tamale has clearly made a good impression in Wollongong.

And the 19-year-old is hoping to press his case for an NRL debut when the Red V face South Sydney in Saturday's Charity Shield. 

"I feel like I'm ready whenever the team needs me and I'm going to make sure I show up and do my job no matter what," Tamale told AAP. 

"When I get that chance I want to make sure I kill it so I get another chance at it. 

"This is only my second year in a professional league system and now I know what to expect.

"Flanno has been really good. He's trying to get the best out of everyone and making sure that whatever we do we are giving 110 per cent and at the peak of our ability." 

Tamale grew up watching clips of Greg Inglis and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck but seemed destined for a career in rugby union.

He was part of the Waratahs junior system but was lured to the Dragons by Anthony Griffin, turning down several NRL clubs along the way.

Bird has taken him under his wing and the teenager, who remains off-contract heading into this season, says he doesn't want to be a constant code-hopper. 

"I felt like taking the league pathway would develop me physically and mentally to build a really good foundation," Tamale said. 

"Probably further down the track (rugby is an option) but for the next couple of years I'm focused on cracking the NRL and being the best player I can be.

"It's definitely been a change, league is harder because of the decisions you have to make (especially) on the wing." 

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