Dan’s View: The Big Stories of 2013

Another day, another fan submission. This time it’s from passionate & vocal Cronulla Sharks fan, Dan Nichols. His club has been through the wringer of late with the ASADA scandal, as he casts his eye over the biggest stories in league in 2013. What would you regard as the biggest stories of 2013 for the NRL?

It’s fair to say 2014 was a year like no other for the NRL and Rugby League in general. Former banker David Smith was named the new CEO of the Organisation with former Bulldogs boss Todd Greenberg installed as his right hand man. The ‘Darkest Day In Sport’ press conference sent shockwaves through the code with the focus of the investigation focusing mainly on the Cronulla Sharks. It was announced that next year will feature the inaugural 9’s competition, meaning the yearly All-Stars Game will no longer be the official launch of the NRL season.

The Sydney Roosters, led by their returning superstar Sonny Bill Williams and rookie coach Trent Robinson completed a rare and well deserved Minor Premiership/Premiership double, whilst the year ended with the mighty Australian Kangaroos dominating the World Cup Tournament. We’re going to take a look at 11 of the biggest stories of 2013, although there could easily have been 20 or so after an exciting and newsworthy year for Rugby League … Unfortunately not all for the right reasons:

1. The On Going ASADA Investigation: Without a doubt, the unfortunate black cloud that has positioned itself over our code all season.
It all started with the infamous ‘Darkest Day In Sport’ press conference all those many months ago and shows no signs of wrapping up any time soon. As it stands, only Sandor Earl has been issued with an infraction notice, although Sharks’ coach Shane Flanagan, former President Damian Irvine and members of the Shark’s support staff have all become victims of the investigation.
Former Sharks’ trainer turn whistleblower Trent Elkin, has been rubbed out for at least 2 seasons and faces a life ban. The Sharks were able to overcome the intense media scrutiny to finish 5th and advance to the second round of the finals series, however, the worst may be yet to come.
The club have been fined a million dollars, however have indicated they will appeal. With ASADA yet to issue their findings, unfortunately for fans of the club and the game, will be left without closure over Christmas and the New Year.
Paul Gallen and Wade Graham were unfairly made the faces of the Sharks scandal whilst the man who is truly responsible for the entire scandal, Stephen Dank, is yet to face the music. Until ASADA question Dank, who has threatened all sorts of legal action, this may drag on for a long time to come.

2. Sandor Earl comes clean: After pleading guilty to using and trafficking banned substances, former Panthers and Raiders flyer Sandor Earl came clean so to speak in a tell all interview on Channel 9’s Footy Show. Earl faces a long suspension, although he is hoping his testimony will help land the big fish in the aforementioned Dank, hence shortening any penalty laid against him.
Although Earl has plead guilty to the charges, he is no closer to knowing his punishment, frustrating both the player himself and fans. Opinions were split on Earl’s Footy Show interview but you have to admire his courage to face the music. Earl signed to play Rugby Union next season, but his playing future is far from decided.

3. Burgess Clan: Sam Burgess was as well known for his appearances in Sydney Confidential as he was for his performances on the field for the Rabbits but in 2013, he truly came into his own. A true superstar of the game, Burgess was instrumental in his side’s run to the finals.
This season he was joined by all three of his brother and their mother, when the Rabbits took on the Tigers. Although the whole affair was repeated ad nauseum by Channel 9 and print media outlets, it shouldn’t take away from the amazing achievement. This will not be the last time we see Sam, George, Luke and Tom on the field at the same time.

4. SBW’s Return: Another story that both excited and drove fans crazy in 2013. Cross code superstar Sonny Bill Williams lived up to and far surpassed the hype off his off season signing.
Sonny’s on field performances helped lead his Rooster’s side to Premiership Glory and his off field presence lead to a surge in membership numbers and corporate interest at the club. A masterstroke in every sense, Sonny’s signing put rugby league on the front pages across Australia and New Zealand more than once this season. He is expected to return to Rugby in 2015, however, the Roosters were able to do what many thought impossible by keeping Williams in league for 2014.
There were concerns about his fitness and defensive capabilities brought about by his time in union, but they were all for naught. Sonny is amongst the game’s elite and will continue to dominate Channel 9’s coverage for one more season.

5. Ricky Stuart Sacks Half The Side Then Leaves: Ricky Stuart has always been a polarising figure. His decision to publicly sack a large number of Parramatta’s playing roster shocked the rugby league world and split opinion.
Long suffering Eels fans initially seemed to support the roster shake up, however they soon grew tired of Stuart’s excuses and warnings to expect to be belted off the park at times during the season. No fan wants to hear that they should expect to be beaten by 50 points by the team’s coach. Stuart was touted as the next Jack Gibson by those who signed him but 2013 was a horror season for the Eels and their fans.
2014 has to be better, it couldn’t be much worse. William Hopoate returns to the code and Jarryd Hayne seems to have refound his mojo with his excellent performances in the World Cup. Stuart has moved to the Raiders for personal reasons and although there was initial anger from Eels’ fans, that seems to have turned to relief. Stuart won’t return to Pirtek Stadium in 2014 with the game moved to Darwin, meaning Eels’ fans will have to travel thousands of miles to vent their anger.

6. QLD Continue Record Winning Streak Despite Gallen 1-2: Paul Gallen’s infamous 1-2 to the chin of Maroons star Nate Myles changed the game forever as the NRL acted to adopt a zero tolerance policy when it came to the ‘Biff’.
Although NSW won Origin 1, they were unable to stop the QLD juggernaut who continue their record of series wins. It’s up around 100 now, or so it seems as it’s been so long since NSW have won a series that it has fans and experts alike reaching for the record books. For the record, QLD have won the past 8 series and will be confident of making that 9 as they have 2 home games next year. NSW seem to be heading in the right direction although injury and off field issues tore their campaign apart after the Game 1 triumph. They’ll need everything to go right next year to be in with a genuine shot at ending the dominance.

7. Roosters Win Rare Double: With a large section of the media focusing on a certain cross code star for the majority of the season, you can be forgiven for overlooking the fact Trent Robinson led his side to a title in his first year as a senior NRL coach.
Boyd Cordner has established himself as a major star both at club and representative level whilst Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney proved themselves to be amongst the game’s best halves partnerships. There were success stories across the park for the Roosters but none more than the return to form of Michael Jennings.
Sacked by Penrith after a string of off field incidents, Jennings seemed to have lost interest in the game. Change was a good as a holiday for the NSW superstar who scored the try that sealed the grand final win for his new club.

8. 7th Tackle Try Mares Emotional Win: The reports should have been about the brave performance by the ASADA-hounded Sharks who held on to beat the fast finishing Cowboys side to advance to the second round of the finals. John Morris’s last ditch try saver should have been the play of the year, but instead a ridiculous counting error by referee’s Henry Perenara and Match Cecchin took a lot away from the victory.
A genuine error had those north of the border claiming a conspiracy for an all NSW final. Although common sense would dictate the NRL would be far more concerned about the under investigation Shire Side having to have a title striped should they have gone on to win, petitions were circulated on the back of the conspiracy theories. The Cowboys were robbed plain and simple but the incident took part in the first half and neither team was aware at the moment.
The Cowboys were arguably the better side on the day and much of their frustration stemmed from their not being able to put away the Sharks at the time. For the record, I am more than confident there was no NRL conspiracy – it was just an unfortunate error that robbed the Cowboys of a shot of victory and the Sharks the right to celebrate a huge victory.

9. Roos Dominate World Cup: There were many talking points come out of the world cup. The validity of the tournament, the length of the tournament, Billy Slater’s over reaction to being pushed in the face at a nightclub, the horribly short in goals and player eligibility being just a few, but one thing that was not in question was the total dominance by the Kangaroos.
After a shaky start against the hosts England, the Roos never looked like being topped. New Zealand had a brilliant tournament but in truth were belted off the park by the Roos in the final. Hell-bent on returning to their mantle as the world’s best side, nothing was going to stop the superstar Australian side. The Pacific Island nations took huge steps forward, whilst the USA was the surprise packet. For organisers, it went pretty much to plan with England and the Kiwis playing off for a chance to play the highly fancied Roos in the final, although unfortunately the game of the tournament was the semi final and not the final.
The New Zealand fans should be proud of their team as they were only beaten by a side that contains 5 future Immortals.

10. Cooper Cronk Wins Dally M: The ‘lesser’ name of Melbourne’s ‘Big 3’ won the game’s highest individual honour after a brilliant season. He beat the fast finishing Daly Cherry-Evans and brilliant Todd Carney to capture the well deserves medal.
Cronk has established himself as the game’s best halfback after Thurston moved to 5/8th to take over Lockyer’s place in the rep sides. Cherry-Evans made a play at the Australian number 7 jersey, although Cronk held off the challenge and produced an amazing tournament. Cronk’s career best season saw him win the Dally M medal and a World Cup winner’s medal.

11. 9’s Announced: An exciting innovation brought about by private investment in New Zealand will kick off the NRL Season in 2014. As the name suggests, competing teams will field 9 players for 9 minute halves in weekend tournament with huge prize money on offer.
Fans of the old 7’s will be happy, whilst those who are too young to remember the 7’s tournaments will have much to look forward to. If you like length of the field breaks and tries in big numbers, this tournament is for you. Don’t expect too many front rowers to play in the tournament, although the make-up of sides is going to be of huge interest. Some clubs will field back rowers, whilst others will field mainly their backline.
One thing is for sure, the prize money and contracts signed, mean this will not be reduced to reserve graders, something that plagued the 7’s. With tens of thousands of tickets already sold, this looks like an exciting innovation and will be the talk of the town in February of next year.

2013 was a big year, 2014 could be bigger. ASADA should (may) wind up their investigation and finally announce their findings, something that could have a far ranging effect for not only the Sharks but the game in general. QLD will be looking to win their 50th series in a row, the 9’s will excite and help clubs balance their books, and we can look forward to seeing the game’s next stars establish themselves.

NRL Expansion according to Geoff A

Not to be confused with the Geoff who wrote yesterday’s expansion article, we have Geoff A on board today who gives us his view on expansion. He agrees with some points and disagrees with others made by Geoff Koop yesterday, so who do you agree with?

The debate on where (and if) the NRL will expand is the best pub debate in rugby league today and whilst everyone’s entitled to their opinion, I have to disagree with Geoff’s Koop’s assertion that Dunedin and PNG should be next on the NRL’s radar.

Whilst PNG have made huge strides by being accepted into the Queensland Cup, in my view Dunedin would sit 10th in places the NRL would expand to next. Dunedin has a population of 126,000 people.

That’s less than half the population of Wollongong where the Dragons have recently saw fit to cut their games at WIN Stadium from 6 down to 4 because of low crowds. And that’s despite the fact that the Dragons aren’t up against any other major code in Wollongong.
Yet if you stick a team in Dunedin, you’re forcing them to compete against a sports outfit like the Highlanders. And just because the university crowd frequents one rugby code, doesn’t mean they’ll go to another.

PNG though does have merit. Although Port Moresby only has a population of 300,000, it has a nation of 7 million and an acknowledgement of being the national game to draw on. Similar to how the North Queensland Cowboys have fans that travel from around the region, one can foresee Papua New Guineans travelling from all corners of the nation to see the NRL’s best as well as their home grown stars.
The next few years in the Queensland Cup will show whether our northern neighbours have what it takes to provide an NRL team at some stage in the future.

Whilst every bid has its merits, I don’t know that the Central Coast and Wellington are really in the frame. The Bears would have to negotiate a deal at Bluetongue Stadium far better than A-League’s Mariners currently have where they must draw a crowd of 10,000 just to break even. Besides, the NRL have already passed on them once, so has their bid really got any stronger since?

The reason I rule out Wellington is that I believe Perth and Brisbane are ahead based on one of the most important criteria’s when it comes to rugby league; television. The time difference in Perth and ratings available in Queensland put both bids above a bid from Wellington or Central Queensland for that matter.
Sure Wellington can boast a time difference as well, but one presumes the TV networks would prefer a later game rather than an earlier one; and it’s not like the Warriors have ever attracted much attention from Channel 9.

What concerns me about a second Brisbane team though, is whether it would really grow the game or merely cannibalise the existing market. The Melbourne Victory averaged 26,620 fans the year before the Melbourne Heart joined the A League. That number dropped to 18,458 the year the Heart joined the competition with the Heart averaging 8,312. (8000 fans that used to go to Victory games?)

Regardless of where you think the next team should come from, it will be pure speculation until at least the end of current broadcast deal. In the meantime, the NRL needs to focus on improving the lower grade competitions so that the game has the depth necessary to support expansion in the future. Not to mention looking at ways of promoting more internationals in between World Cups, but they’re two other topics entirely.

Geoff’s View: NRL Expansion

Making his NRL News debut is Geoff Koop, a passionate Brisbane Broncos fan. The topic he delves into in his maiden article is that of NRL expansion and the areas that should be considered for an NRL team. Do you agree/disagree? Where do you believe the NRL should expand to?

If the Rugby League World Cup has shown us anything, it’s that there is a need for expansion in the sport’s strongest area, the NRL. Much opposition has come against the idea of putting teams into areas such as Gosford, Perth and PNG but in reality, if the NRL is going to help the game grow globally, then we need to start expanding to help these nations and cities develop.

At it’s peak, there used to be 20 teams in the Australia’s top flight rugby league competition and that was without a Melbourne team. Perth, Adelaide and North Sydney no longer exist, Wests and Balmain have merged as well as St George and Illawara, and the Gold Coast team has folded and re-entered with a lot has happening since that year. The game was not ready to have that many teams. It is now.

The biggest areas for expansion are the South Island of New Zealand and Papau New Guinea. Teams in these areas would not only see an imporvement in junior development of players from those nations, but in general better development of NRL players and then a further improvement in the general play of the NRL.

Furthermore, the untapped market of Dunedin and Port Moresby are ones that sorely neglected by the NRL. Dunedin is home to Otago University, one of the best sports universities in New Zealand. Students of the uni are known to frequent Highlanders super rugby games during their season and make quite the atmosphere, so imagine what they could do with the pace of the NRL. Furthermore, it would give New Zealanders a second option in the NRL, which would create a healthy rivalry as well as a healthy relationship.

A team in Port Moresby is closer than a lot of people think. PNG recently were accepted into the the Intrust Cup and will be looking to make a strong impression. You just have to look at the scenes out of the PM XIII’s visit to see that an NRL team in PNG would thrive and be well supported.

However development has been stifled by Channel 9 with their refusal to allow extra teams. Without turning this away from its original point, the game must be allowed to grow where it has room, and the game has room in these two areas to grow.

Warriors utility signs for Wakefield

Pita Godinet

When new players come in, promising players perform well or current players maintain form, it can often be hard for fringe players to crack a first-grade side and for Pita Godinet, that was the case at the New Zealand Warriors.

Godinet, who is a utility – able to play in the halves and at hooker – felt it was best he sought first-grade elsewhere to gain more opportunity and it was the Wakefield Wildcats who pounced, signing Godinet for the next two seasons.

Playing most of the year with the Warriors feeder side, the Auckland Vulcans, his new club – the Wildcats – plan to use him at either hooker or in the halves.

“He is a skilful player and I think he will make a big impact. He will also give us cover at six or nine,” Wildcats head coach Richard Agar said.

“Half-backs are at a premium and it is a difficult time of the season to try and sign new players, so I am delighted we have signed him and I certainly think he will add something to our squad.”

Whilst the Wildcats got their man this time, they had previously tried to sign him but to no avail.

“Our first enquiry was rebuffed but I think Pita realised that it would be a tremendous opportunity to play in Super League and become an important player for us,” said Agar.

At one stage, it looked like Pita Godinet would be staying at the club after Warriors coach Matt Elliott said the following back in June.

“All of the options that we’re going to take up have been taken up. Pita is here next year,” Elliott said.

Since then, however, with the club opting to retain Nathan Friend and other promising players to cover at hooker, Godinet felt it was the right time to move with no guarantee of first-grade action.

More to come..

Talented prop re-signs with the Dragons

Jack Stockwell

On the back of re-signing Tyson Frizell, the St George Illawarra Dragons have received another boost, with the club today confirming the re-signing of talented prop Jack Stockwell until the end of 2017.

Stockwell, who is a junior from the Picton Magpies, came through the Dragons junior ranks and played for their Holden Cup side and was named in the NYC Team of the Year in 2012.

Making his NRL debut in 2012, Stockwell has played in 23 first-grade games to date and has represented both the NSW U20’s Origin side and the Junior Kangaroos.

With his playing future sorted, Stockwell is keen to get stuck in and looks forward to the next few years with the Dragons.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to continue my development with the Dragons,” said Stockwell.

“The decision was a fairly simple one to make in the end, having progressed through the Club’s various youth teams, and I look forward to being a part of the Club’s future.”

The decision by Stockwell to stay with the club is one that has pleased coach Steve Price, who is well aware of the prop’s ability.

“Jack is an exciting young player who works extremely hard and continues to improve with each training session and game,” said Price.

“Jack is very highly regarded by his team mates and shows maturity beyond his years.

“He always gives his all on the field and I see him competing hard for a regular place in the front-row.”

Equally pleased is Dragons CEO Peter Doust, who sees the young prop as a key part of their side moving forward.

“We are all very pleased by Jack’s decision to extend his stay at the Club,” said Doust.

“Jack has been a player we identified a number of years ago who we see as a key part of our future.”

Irish international to join Castleford

Liam Finn

New opportunities can sometimes be hard to find and a player can often find themselves changing teams often if they are not performing and for Liam Finn – an Irish international – he has a chance to play in the Super League once more, with the Castleford Tigers signing him with immediate effect.

Finn, who has previously played for the Wakefield Wildcats and most recent the Featherstone Rovers, said the move was a great one for his career and he looks to make the most of the chance that has come his way.

“I’m flattered and extremely grateful that a great traditional club like Castleford has given me the opportunity to play in Super League again,” said Finn.

“I didn’t take my chance last time and it has been a long road back. I hope to pay that back to the club and the coaching staff with hard work, and by proving to them and to myself that I am more than capable of been a quality Super League player for them, and make the most of a second chance playing at the highest level”.

Someone who knows what he is capable of is Tigers head coach Daryl Powell, who has been impressed with what Finn has done at halfback and hooker in the Championship over the last few years, with that versatility further strengthening the Castleford side.

“Liam Finn has been a ‘standout performer’ in the Championship for the last four seasons, he is an outstanding player in both half-back, and hooker positions, and will further enhance the quality of our competition in those positions,” said Powell.

“I am supremely confident he will do well in Super League as a result of his professional attitude and skill sets, and I’m looking forward to working with him again here at Castleford Tigers”.

PNG international gets huge opportunity and signs a 2-year deal with Penrith

Papua New Guinea could be regarded as an area that is full of untapped potential and with the recent Rugby League World Cup, some of their players have been noticed – Albert Wellington being one – with the PNG international signing a 2-year deal with the Penrith Panthers.

Wellington was set to be a part of the Papua New Guinean side to play in the Intrust Super Cup but with news of his Panthers deal, he has been released from his PNG commitments in the QLD Cup, with his agent Steve Deacon believing the Panthers offer was the best for Wellington amid offers from rival NRL clubs.

“We and his family are exceptionally proud of Wellington and where he started 2 years ago when he was identified under the National Schoolboys program to where he is at now,” said PNGRFL CEO Brad Tassell.

“We firmly believe he has the attitude, commitment and talent to make it all the way to the top in the NRL, which obviously Penrith also believe.

“Wellington and Steve recently met with Phil Gould, Coach Ivan Cleary and the player welfare department at Penrith and were impressed by the structure they have in place to look after their young players and in particular a player in Wellington’s case.

Although PNG know that Wellington is not the finished product as a player, they know that he has the tools required to succeed in the NRL and the Holden Cup when given an opportunity.

“We are very excited for the young man and he is hopefully the first of many that will come through the program over the next few years and into the NRL,” said Tassell.

“You can’t tell me know that there won’t be thousands of young kids around the country who want to be the next Wellington Albert. The hard work for Wellington has only just started, he has a long way to go and has to keep improving and proving himself at every training session and every match.

“He has been given the pathway and opened the door, where he goes to from here is 100% up to him. I thank Phil and the Panthers for showing faith in the young man. The are getting a player of enormous potential and I have no doubt he will repay that faith tenfold back to the Panthers.”

Sandis Tsaka, the Deputy Chairman of the PNGRFL said that an experienced group of people around Wellington will provide for a successful transition to the club and first-grade rugby league.

“Wellington has received great advice every step of the way from staff who care about his welfare and ensuring he will be looked after,” said Tsaka.

“This is a new PNGRFL and a new direction we are chartering and is a massive achievement for not only Wellington, but also the game in PNG. It shows that what we have and are putting in place for the future is the right direction.”

The PNGRFL also hope that Wellington’s successful move to an NRL club will help pave the way for other Papua New Guinean players to do the same.

“I don’t think there has ever been a PNG player recruited direct from PNG to an NRL contract, who hasn’t played a game for any club in Australia,” said Tsaka.

“This is history for the code and we have no doubt Wellington will blaze a pathway for other young talented players to emulate what he has achieved to date. It is vitally important that Wellington is part of a family atmosphere at Penrith and he will be placed with the Horo family who live close to the playing and training venue.

“This will allow him to concentrate on his training and playing. He will also be put through and continue his schooling and/or tertiary education by the club, which again is very important to us and to Wellington and his family.”

Equally excited to give Wellington an opportunity is Panthers Executive General Manager Phil Gould, who knows that the talented youngster has untapped potential and ability.

“We look forward to assisting Wellington in developing both his rugby league career and his education through the University of Western Sydney,” said Gould.

“The signing of Wellington Albert also continues my own personal commitment to assist PNG in developing their Rugby League profile. With PNG players James Segeyaro and Junior Wari already in our system, I am hoping that in future more PNG players will look to develop their careers through the Panthers programs”.

Talented Leeds youngster signs new 3-year deal

Elliot Minchella

When it comes to player retention, the promising young players are ones to also keep and that is what the Leeds Rhinos have done, re-signing talented English Academy player Elliot Minchella on a new 3-year deal.

Making his debut against Salford during a match in August and capping it off with a try, he is rated highly by the club with Leeds coach Brian McDermott earmarking the 17-year old as a player of the future, highlighting just how versatile he can be to the team.

“He has got a good chance. Like Alex Foster he is pretty much an all-rounder,” McDermott said.

“He’s a good defender and also good with the ball, a strong carrier and he can play in the middle or on the edge.

“At such a young age he has played first team already and he’s one for the future.”

For the young player himself, it is a deal he is thankful to have been awarded and whilst he will seek out the opportunity to play more first-grade games, his primary focus is on the U19’s side.

“I had a good year and it is nice to get rewarded for that,” he said.

“Hopefully, I can crack on this season and get one or two games, but my focus is more on the U19s.

“I want to have a strong year for them and see what we can do.

“This season my aim is to get a few games, but it’s still a bonus. I am still only young and I’ve got my feet on the ground. I will be patient.”

Eels prop gets 2 year good behaviour bond after mid-range drink driving charge in September

Mitch Allgood

The outcome is one that can now allow him to focus on his football, with the Parramatta Eels releasing a statement about Mitch Allgood and his mid-range drink driving charge back in September during the Mad Monday celebrations.

As a result of the findings and proceedings, Allgood received a 2-year good behaviour bond from the courts and was remorseful for his actions that led to the incident.

The full Eels statement is as follows:

Today Parramatta Eels forward Mitchell Allgood was served with a good behaviour bond for two years for the charge of driving under the influence of alcohol – midrange.

The court’s decision comes after Allgood pleaded guilty to the charge in September, then completed a driving offenders course and visited the Royal Rehabilitation Clinic in Ryde to see first hand some of the consequences of drink driving.

Allgood also incurred a club-sanctioned fine, the proceeds of which will be donated to the charity of his choice.

“I am very thankful for the fair hearing but completely understand that my actions put not just myself but others at risk,” Allgood said.

“I am glad that the matter has now been dealt with and I can now concentrate on working hard at training and in the community.”

Wigan veteran makes the move to Salford

Harrison Hansen

Wigan has been a home to him for some years now and after a successful career at the club, the time is ripe for a fresh challenge, with back-rower Harrison Hansen to join the Salford City Reds.

Hansen, 28, was the Samoan captain at this years’ Rugby League World Cup and opted for a move to Salford, the club where his father Shane once played.

The area is local to Hansen, having played for Folly Lane ARLFC, before he was approached by Wigan at a young age.

A big factor in Hansen signing with Salford is owner Marwan Koukash.

“Marwan has been awesome and is the reason I am here signing for Salford today,” he said.

“I grew up and played for Folly and people always asked me if I would like to come back and play here.

“I always said it was something I wanted to do but the time had to be right and I feel now as though it is. I am really excited to be here right at the beginning of this special time for the Red Devils.”

For Wigan, whilst they are sad to lose a player of Hansen’s quality, they know that he has always harboured a desire to return to his home club.

“Although we are sad to lose Harrison, we are also aware of his desire to join his hometown club,” said Wigan head coach Shaun Wane.

“We offered him a long-term deal to stay but he feels the time is now right for him to move on and take this opportunity with Salford.

“He has worn the famous Wigan jersey with honour and distinction and we wish him well in this new chapter in his playing career.”

Hansen, who has enjoyed success with Wigan in both the Super League and the Challenge Cup, said he has cherished every moment during his Wigan career.

“I’ve loved every minute playing for Wigan, it’s been a huge part of my life since I was 15 years old,” said Hansen.

“To have been part of this special club for so long has been a real honour and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Wigan will always have a special place in my heart and I have so many fantastic memories.

“To all the players and coaching staff along the way, you have all contributed to the person and rugby player I am today, thank you.”