NRL star Gareth Widdop has signed for Warrington Wolves and says he will realise a childhood dream when he joins the English Super League club in 2020.
The 29-year-old full-back/stand-off signed a three-year deal with the Wolves after St George Illawarra agreed to release him from his contract at the end of the 2019 season on compassionate grounds.
The Dragons, who say their captain cited a desire to play in Super League and to be closer to his grandparents, have released him on condition that, if he were to return to the NRL, then it would be to the Dragons.
“It certainly hasn’t been the easiest decision but sometimes in life we have aspirations and playing in the Super League has been one of mine for a while now,” the 29-year-old said in a statement on the official Dragons website.
“The Dragons have played a big part in my career. I’ve been here a long time now and to get to where we have with the roster we’ve got, to leave it all behind especially being the captain will be difficult.
“This situation has been handled in the most professional way possible. I worked really closely with the club who have been great. We worked towards getting the best outcome and I thank the Dragons for that.
“I still have the 2019 season to come. The reason we play this game is to win premierships. We have the squad to win it this year and I’ll be doing everything possible to achieve that.”
He added: “I’ve been away from home for a long time now and, growing up in Halifax, I always had dreams of playing in Super League.
“Warrington have given me the opportunity to come home and live out a childhood dream. I’m really excited for that. It’s a long way off yet but it’s something I’m looking forward to.”
Widdop, who emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of 16, won Premiership honours with Melbourne and has spent the last five seasons with the Dragons.
Warrington chief executive Karl Fitzpatrick said: “This is arguably the biggest signing in the club’s history and quite possibly in the history of Super League.
England regular Widdop will be reunited with Warrington’s Australian head coach Steve Price, who also signed him for the Dragons in 2014.
“It says how good our competition is when a marquee player in Australia shows the desire to come and play in Super League while holding aspirations to keep playing for his country,” Price said.
The St George Illawarra Dragons have retained Matt Dufty for a further two seasons, after the fullback signed a contract which will see him stay in the Red V until the end of 2021. It will no doubt be a welcome announcement for Dragons officials, particularly in the wake of Gareth Widdop’s decision to leave […]
In a period of speculation before the Dragons signed Corey Norman and Gareth Widdop announced his 2020 departure to England, Matt Dufty is reported to have said in November that the Dragons’ staff had assured him he had the fullback spot locked down for the 2019 season.
Usually, depth is something that coaches welcome, but for St George Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregor managing that playing depth during the season to give competing players a fair chance to develop will make a major difference to retention of players in 2020.