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Australian rugby dealt massive blow with Izaia Perese set for shock code switch

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9th December, 2018
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He’s been touted as one of few reasons for Australian rugby fans to be optimistic about the future, but young star Izaia Perese is on his way out of the 15-man game and headed to rugby league.

As first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Perese has signed a contract with Intrust Super Cup side the Redcliffe Dolphins, a feeder club for the Brisbane Broncos. The deal is only a training replacement contract, however, there’s little doubt Perese has more than enough talent to make the grade in the NRL and earn a place in the Broncos’ senior squad.

The Queensland Reds confirmed the news on Monday afternoon, saying the decision wasn’t taken lightly, and that it was only made when a quality replacement was found.

“We have thought long and hard about this, as releasing players from their contractual commitments isn’t something we take lightly,” said a statement released by the club.

“Izaia was released on the basis of us identifying a quality replacement and this has certainly been achieved. We wish Izaia all the best for his future.”

The 21-year-old outside back started gaining attention with some notable performances in the NRC in 2016 and 2017 and made his Super Rugby debut for the Queensland Reds in 2017. He’s been on the fringes of the Wallabies squad without having made his debut, but still loomed as a likely member of the Australian side for the World Cup next year in Japan.

But now, Wallabies fans are now unlikely to ever see the young star pull on an Australian jersey – at least in rugby union – with Perese following in the footsteps of fellow Anglican Church Grammar School product Kalyn Ponga and making the switch to league.

In some brighter news, Perese’s exit means Melbourne Rebels winger Sefa Naivalu has made the move north to join the Reds, confirmed on Monday afternoon in a switch that is likely to increase the big winger’s playing time and World Cup hopes.

Naivalu said he was excited about the opportunity to join the Reds.

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“I’m very excited to go up there and play with a bunch of Rugby players who have the potential of getting the job done,” said Naivalu.

“Brad Thorn is a well known Rugby player and I’m looking forward to working with him and learning more off him.

“I just need to keep working hard and taking opportunities and execute how the coaches want me to execute and hopefully I get selected for the World Cup next year.”