Leeds Rhinos chief Gary Hetherington rules out move for England stand-off Gareth Widdop

Chief executive Gary Hetherington has ruled out Leeds Rhinos in the chase to sign England stand-off Gareth Widdop '“ but hopes a Super League rival will get the NRL star for 2020.

Gareth Widdop.

The St George-Illawarra captain has denied reports he has asked for a “release” from his deal for 2019 and insists he will remain with the club next year but hopes to play in Super League “when the time is right.”

Halifax-born Widdop, 29, is under contract until 2021 but his comments have opened up a belief that the ex-Melbourne Storm star may return to the UK in 2020. Given he earns around $1m per season, he would clearly command a ‘marquee’ deal whereby only £150,000 is counted on the salary cap.

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Clubs are only allowed two marquee players and Leeds have just signed Australian Trent Merrin and Tonga star Konrad Hurrell on such terms.

Gareth Widdop.

Hetherington admitted: “You’re allowed two and we’ve now got two so that’s us done.

“But what’s quite encouraging is the number of quality players actually being attracted from the NRL to our competition at the moment.

“If a Super League club can bring him (Widdop) to Super League in 2020 then that’d be great for the competition.

“But I think he’ll need one of those not known for signing ‘marquee’ players to step up.

Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington.

“It’d be great if more clubs did get one.”

Wigan, Warrington, St Helens and Leeds currently have marquee signings for 2019.