Kallum Watkins: Leeds Rhinos captain to join Australian NRL side Gold Coast Titans
Leeds Rhinos captain Kallum Watkins is to leave the Super League club to join Australian NRL side Gold Coast Titans.
The 28-year-old England centre. in his 11th season at Headingley, had already revealed his plan to quit at the end of the season over a salary cap dispute.
But, having signed for the Titans, with two years left on his contract, he will now leave struggling Leeds mid-season.
He is due to leave on 1 July, making him available for just two more games, at St Helens and at home to Catalans.
Leeds are still struggling in Super League in 10th, four points adrift of safety, and just two points off the bottom, after suffering a first defeat in three games with Friday night's narrow defeat by Wigan, in what now turns out to have been Watkins' penultimate home game.
"It has all happened so quickly," said Watkins, who missed the majority of the 2018 season because of a knee injury. "But my focus for now is on helping the Rhinos climb the table."
In a club statement issued straight after the game, Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said: "When we announced Kallum would be leaving at the end of the season, given his long and outstanding service to the club, it was agreed that if a long-term opportunity arose we would release him sooner.
"His departure gives us flexibility within the salary cap this season to strengthen our squad if the right player becomes available."
But, in the post-match press conference, interim head coach Richard Agar said: "I don't think there's any point bringing in anybody unless they are going to enhance and improve our team.
"He's been great for us. He really has. I'm fairly new to the coaching staff here so I don't feel qualified to talk about Kallum's contribution to this club but what he's achieved for Leeds will obviously go down in history.
"And we know that, over the next couple of weeks, he will be 100 per cent fully committed, as he has been."
Watkins, who won three Grand Finals (2012, 2015 and 2017) and two Challenge Cup finals with Leeds (2014 and 2015), has scored 101 tries in 256 appearances since his debut in 2008.
Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield, Watkins' team-mate in four of those finals, said: "Kallum has been a tremendous servant to the club.
"Having come through as a teenager, it has been a pleasure to see him develop into a world class player for club and country."
Gold Coast Titans, who have former Warrington playmaker Tyrone Roberts in their ranks, have never finished higher than third in their 12 seasons in the NRL.
Englishmen down under
Watkins will join a number of his England team-mates in Australia.
Former Leeds winger Ryan Hall is with the Sydney Roosters, while James Graham and Gareth Widdop, who has signed for Warrington for 2020, are at St George Illawarra.
Sam, George and Tom Burgess are all at South Sydney, while John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliot Whitehead and Josh Hodgson are at Canberra.