Wolfpack confirm Watkins signing
Toronto Wolfpack have confirmed the signing of England international Kallum Watkins on a three-year deal, effective immediately. Watkins recently returned from Australia to the UK for personal reasons, and has been granted a release from his current contract with NRL side the Gold Coast Titans.
All 12 Super League clubs are currently working together as the suspension of the season, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, dramatically affects revenue. All teams have had to make dramatic pay cuts for both players and staff in the last few weeks. Watkins’ commitment to the Wolfpack, and to the Super League, means he has also accepted significantly reduced pay terms for the 2020 season.
.@KallumWatkins with the perfect line!!! 🚂💪
Watkins sets up @Ryan5Hall for @leedsrhinos against Wigan in 2017 #SLLeeWig pic.twitter.com/z8fyq3HlLH
— Betfred Super League (@SuperLeague) April 13, 2018
Born in Manchester, Watkins became one of the youngest players in history to play first grade rugby when he made his debut at the age of 16 for Leeds Rhinos in a Challenge Cup fixture. Watkins went on to play 256 games for Leeds, including a stint as captain, before crossing to the Australian NRL in 2019 to join the Titans. He commented:
“First of all I would like to thank the Gold Coast Titans for granting me and my family the opportunity to go back home, I had a great time over there. To the owners, coaches, players, staff and the fans at the Titans, I wish them all the success in the world. I know they will turn things round at the club.
“I came back for family reasons. There has been a lot going on back home, and then when I heard about my dad I had to come back. I wanted to succeed in the NRL but I had to put my family first, and now I’m excited to be back playing in the Super League.”
The 29-year-old’s return to the Super League will see him reunite with Wolfpack Head Coach Brian McDermott, who was his Head Coach at Leeds between 2011 and 2018. He continued:
“The opportunity to play for Toronto is really exciting and I’m really looking forward to working with the team. I know this club wants to be successful and I want to play my part in that.
“I just want to work and enjoy my rugby, it is also an exciting opportunity to work with Brian McDermott once again. He’s supported me through the majority of my career, not only in helping me improve as a player but also as a leader, which is something I can use on and off the field.”
McDermott also expressed his excitement at the chance to link up with Watkins once again:
“To add someone of the quality of Kallum Watkins to our squad during the League suspension is a positive move. I know first-hand what Kallum can do and we are thrilled he will be joining us on-field once play resumes.
“This is a testing time for sports teams all over the world, and we are no different. We are grateful that Kallum has shown commitment to our cause by agreeing to our revised pay model alongside his team mates, and in line with many other players across our league.”
Kallum Watkins was trouble for defences at #RLWC2017 😏
Here are all his tries & assists at the tournament... pic.twitter.com/aNVjtvaTMo
— England Rugby League (at 🏠) (@England_RL) December 8, 2017
During his time with the Rhinos, Watkins played in a remarkable six Super League Grand Finals, three Challenge Cup Finals and one World Club Challenge. More often than not emerging on the winning side, Watkins has also represented England consistently since 2012. He has 48 points to his name in national colours and featured throughout the 2017 World Cup campaign, culminating with an appearance in the 2017 World Cup Final against Australia.
Titans Head Coach Justin Holbrook said Watkins would be a big loss for the Club a few weeks ago when the club granted him a release from his contract.
“Kallum has only been here for a short time, but he is an immensely popular guy in the playing group. Every day he exhibited the qualities that the Club wanted from him – namely his leadership and his professionalism.
“I am mostly just bitterly disappointed for Kallum – firstly that he has to endure this awful situation with health concerns with family members, and secondly that he has had to walk away from his dream of proving himself in the NRL. But family always comes first, and we would never stand in Kallum’s way of doing what is best for his family in a very difficult time.”