Dragons sign NRLW veteran Hancock at age 42

Jamie Soward has declared veteran Steph Hancock is not coming to St George Illawarra merely to be a babysitter, after signing the 42-year-old to a one-season NRLW deal.

Some 21 years after her Test debut for Australia, Hancock has agreed to terms to join a young Dragons pack after opting to move south from Gold Coast.

A grand finalist with the Titans last year, Hancock will likely play a similar role to that which she performed off the bench in 2023.

After being squeezed out of Gold Coast and their rising pack, Hancock emerged as an option for Dragons coach Soward after prop Tara McGrath-West was ruled out for the season with a sternum injury.

And despite being more than two decades into her career, Hancock still had a career-high year for tackle busts at the Titans last season..

"We're a young and up-and-coming squad with a lot of really good talent that could use someone of her experience." Soward told AAP.

"She's not coming down to babysit the girls. She's coming down to play and compete.

"Steph's first question was. 'Do you think I can still play?'.

"And I said, 'I'm not that kind of person, I'm not going to waste your time'.

"She's a legend of our game. She has done it all. But the one thing she wants to do is still compete at this level. She felt like she had something to give."

Hancock is one of two signings for the Dragons for next year, with 31-year-old outside back Kim Hunt to also join, from Parramatta.

Hancock previously played for the Dragons in 2020 before Soward took over as the club's coach, in her last season before a brief retirement.

But the 16-time Queensland representative came out of retirement in 2022, describing a 2021 without football as one of the worst years of her life.

The front-rower admitted in the lead-up to last year's grand final she had decided she was going to retire at least seven other times, but had never gone through with it.

And as far as Soward is concerned, that is for good reason given what Hancock still has to offer as one of the game's most reliable props.

"Age is just a number," Soward said.

"We're going to see more and more women playing into their 30s. Getting her experience around the group, plus the way she plays the game (is big).

"I have hated prepping against her for years, because she always scores a try against us. Make no mistake, she is coming down to play."

The Titans also paid tribute to Hancock this week, with former teammate and coach Karyn Murphy describing her as a trailblazer for the game.

"I commend her for her desire to continue playing the game after all she has achieved not only at a NRLW level, but for Queensland and the Jillaroos as well," Murphy said.

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