AAP Rugby

Titans sign England centre Watkins

By AAP Newswire

Kallum Watkins' career-long stay with the Leeds Rhinos will soon be over after the England centre agreed a long-term deal with the Gold Coast Titans, effective from July 1.

Leeds announced at the start of June that the 28-year-old would be moving on at the end of the season but, after he received an offer to join the growing contingent of English-born players in the NRL, he will leave sooner than planned.

Watkins, who succeeded Danny Maguire as Rhinos captain at the start of the 2018 season, has made 266 appearances for the club since making his debut in 2008, scoring 101 tries.

Gold Coast's head of performance and culture, Mal Meninga said the signing of Watkins was an exciting coup for the Gold Coast.

"Kallum is an exceptional talent," Meninga said.

"I have had to coach against him with the Kangaroos, and he is a very dangerous player.

"Importantly for the Titans however, he is also a very experienced player and a terrific leader. As captain of the Rhinos, he has shown the leadership qualities that will be a tremendous asset for the Titans."

Watkins captained Leeds in their 23-14 loss to Wigan on Friday and both he and the club say he will continue to play up until his move, meaning his final appearances will come against St Helens and Catalans.

He had been linked with a move to Super League rivals Warrington but had admitted he would find it hard to play against Leeds, with whom he has won six league titles.

"I am excited to be going to the Titans and the new challenge for me and my family," Watkins said.

"It has all happened so quickly, but my focus for now is helping the Rhinos climb the table. I will be doing my best, as I always do, before I leave."

Super League has become an increasingly rich source of talent for NRL clubs, with Watkins set to join a number of his England team-mates down under.

Sam, George and Tom Burgess are all at South Sydney, while John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Elliot Whitehead and Josh Hodgson are at Canberra.

Former Leeds winger Ryan Hall is with the Sydney Roosters and James Graham and Gareth Widdop are at St George, although the latter has joined Warrington for 2020.

Meanwhile, the Watkins signing continues the rebuilding process embarked on by the Titans since Queensland legend Meninga joined the club.

"After the signing of (Brisbane Broncos five-eighth) Tanah Boyd, we have made a statement about the future of the Titans," Meninga added.

"Now with Kallum, we are showing that we are also investing in immediate success, and that this club is capable of attracting the best talent in the game, from right around the world."