Melbourne Storm has today agreed to a request from Dallas Johnsonâ€™s management to grant the premiership-winning lock a premature release from his contract.
Johnson, who has been an integral part of one of the most successful teamâ€™s in National Rugby League history, will join English Super League club, Catalans, from next year.
Johnson reluctantly sought a release from the Storm after Catalans, known as the Dragons, put together a three-year deal that proved enough to convince him to shift to France in 2010.
Dual Premiership player Johnson described the decision to shift to the northern hemisphere as the toughest of his career.
â€œThe Storm, as a club, has meant so much to me,â€ said Johnson, who has played in the last four State of Origin seriesâ€™ for Queensland.
â€œThis was without doubt the toughest decision of my career.
â€œI made my debut in Storm colours, represented Queensland and Australia while playing for them, and have made some life-long friends.
â€œStorm members and supporters are the most devoted in rugby league and I want them to know that I am indebted for the support they have shown me throughout my career.
â€œBut there are other areas of life I want to explore and living abroad and travelling is absolutely up there on the list.
â€œThe opportunity to continue my rugby league career with the security of a long-term deal and in such a beautiful part of the world was one that I couldnâ€™t refuse.
â€œIâ€™m now looking forward to making a new start in France and experiencing living overseas.â€
Melbourne CEO Brian Waldron joined the clubâ€™s head coach, Craig Bellamy, in lauding Johnsonâ€™s contribution to the Storm.
â€œItâ€™s with a heavy heart that weâ€™ve agreed to the release request,â€ said Waldron.
â€œDallas has been an integral part of our playing roster since making his debut in 2003.
â€œHis outstanding record speaks for itself and his contribution to the club was recognized when he was awarded Life Membership in 2008.
â€œHis selfless approach has been integral to our success and his leadership on and off the field will be greatly missed.
â€œThis is a great opportunity for Dallas and his wife, Mel, and as a club we would never stand in the way of such a great life experience that awaits.
â€œHe departs with our absolute best wishes and sincere thanks.â€
Bellamy, who made his debut as coach on the same night Johnson played his first NRL game, described the hard-hitting lock, previously contracted until the end of 2011, as the toughest rugby league player he has seen.
â€œFor a guy his size, to do what he does on the field, week after week, is simply incredible,â€ said Bellamy.
â€œHeâ€™s the toughest player I have ever seen.
â€œHeâ€™s a popular guy amongst the players and he will be missed by all.â€