Australian triallist Joe Vickery has earned a one-year contract with Leeds Rhinos after catching the eye in the Super League champions’ festive challenge win over Wakefield Trinity.
The 23-year-old utility back, whose proposed move to Hull fell through last year, is two-thirds of the way through a trial spell with the Rhinos and clinched a permanent deal with a two-try display in their 40-26 Boxing Day victory over the Wildcats.
Exeter-born Vickery, who scored 17 tries last season for Gold Coast Titans’ feeder club Tweed Heads, seized his chance while deputising for ailing Ben Jones-Bishop, touching down twice in the opening quarter while playing on the wing, and he looked equally accomplished after switching to full-back.
Leeds coach Brian McDermott said: “You can’t be signing blokes on how they train, but he has done everything asked of him so we were leaning that way anyway.”
Vickery said: “Getting a contract was my main goal and I’ve achieved that, so I am really happy.
“It was a gamble moving to the other side of the world, leaving my family and friends and coming on trial without having anything secure.
“But it has paid off and all the hard work has been worth it. It’s just a year at the moment and hopefully I can progress.”
Vickery admitted: “There’s a lot of competition, but that’s good – you want that. It makes you play better and train harder.”
Vickery’s debut was ended early by a rib injury which sidelined him for the entire second half.
He said: “The crowd was awesome and getting those two tries early was a real boost for me.
“Wakefield had a strong team, but we’re blessed at Leeds that we’ve got such good depth with all the young kids.
Fielding just three members of their Grand Final-winning team, Leeds’s makeshift team ran in eight tries to five against a Wakefield team forced to play with 12 men for an hour following the early dismissal of new signing Justin Poore.
The Wildcats also lost second-row Lucas Walshaw with broken ribs and hooker or half-back Kyle Wood is set to miss the start of the new Super League season after undergoing surgery for a detached retina.
The 23-year-old former Doncaster, Sheffield and Huddersfield player, who was an ever-present during his first season with the Wildcats in 2012, suffered the injury during a training-ground accident.
“He got a stray finger in his eye,” explained Wakefield coach Richard Agar. “It’s a blow because Woody made a lot of impact last year and he’s been going great in pre-season. He’s had surgery and will be out for two to three months, maybe even longer.”