Leeds Rhinos’ Kallum Watkins enthused by prospects at Gold Coast

LEEDS RHINOS’ captain Kallum Watkins believes his imminent move to Gold Coast Titans will help him recapture his best form and further enhance England’s chances of World Cup success.

The decorated centre was expected to leave at the end of the season after asking for a release when refusing to renegotiate his Headingley deal.

But Titans came calling and asked for him to join on July 1.

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Watkins told his Rhinos colleagues after Friday’s 23-14 loss to Wigan Warriors and he becomes the 11th Englishman playing in the NRL.

Kallum Watkins thinks leaving Leeds Rhinos for Gold Coast Titans will benefit his form (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com).Kallum Watkins thinks leaving Leeds Rhinos for Gold Coast Titans will benefit his form (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com).
Kallum Watkins thinks leaving Leeds Rhinos for Gold Coast Titans will benefit his form (Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com).

His former Leeds team-mate Ryan Hall made the same move in the off-season, joining reigning champions Sydney Roosters.

“I have spoken to Hally quite a few times,” said Watkins.

“He texted me after it was announced I was leaving. He is enjoying his time on Bondi Beach.

“It is growing in terms of English players going over there and testing themselves. They are doing really well and that makes it bright for England as well.”

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Watkins, 28, missed most of last season following knee surgery on his anterior cruciate ligament and has struggled to regain his usual stellar form so far.

He said: “At this time I should be playing at my peak.

“It has been difficult with the injury side of it, getting back to playing the best I can be.

“That is something I am really focused on now; going to the NRL earlier will be testing times, but I think it will benefit me going into it and I am really excited for it.”

One of the best Super League players of his generation, winning every trophy on offer with Leeds, Watkins conceded he did not want to be left with any regrets not testing himself in Australia.

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“I explored all options, but the NRL was a priority because this was the only chance I was going to get,” he said.

“I did put that high on my list. I didn’t want to look back on my career and think, ‘there was an opportunity to go, why didn’t I take it?’ I have been here for 11, 12 years and it’s going to be a new environment and getting used to new things, but I want to take it with both hands and I am really excited to be going over there.”

Watkins – whose penultimate Rhinos game is at leaders St Helens on Friday – will still only be 30 when his Titans deal concludes.

He did not rule out an eventual return to Headingley where he has scored 133 tries in 255 appearances.

“We’ll see how we go in the two years I am there,” he said.

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“If all goes well then probably I can progress on there,” he said.

“But at the same time if I do plan to come back I would never say never to coming back here.”

Rhinos centre Konrad Hurrell joined from Gold Coast this season, but they are currently struggling second bottom in the NRL.

“Their results have been pretty close,” insisted Watkins.

“I know they have struggled in terms of getting wins, but at the same time they look like a group that are sticking together.

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“They just need a run of games in terms of getting results, but the whole competition’s tough and teams are all beating each other.

“It is a fierce competition, but I am excited to be part of it.

“My family are excited for it as well. As soon as the news came out a couple of weeks ago my wife was prioritising Australia.

“It is a new journey for all of us and I want us to enjoy it.”

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Leeds are now expected to make a move in the transfer market given the salary cap space Watkins’s exit has freed up.

However, given the form of teenager Harry Newman – Watkins has been playing second-row recently – a specialist centre will not be a priority.

Half-back is paramount in Rhinos’ recruitment and Watkins said: ““Harry is a talented young man.

“He is desperate to do really well for this team and for himself.

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“He has got all the talent in the world. I have always advised him in certain areas, off the field and on it, and the future is bright with him.

“He has got to keep his feet on the ground and I will try to advise him as best I can. I won’t be here, but I will be keeping an eye on him because his is a special talent.”