Leeds Rhinos sign powerhouse Tongan centre Konrad Hurrell

LEEDS RHINOS have signed powerhouse Tongan star Konrad Hurrell.

Leeds Rhinos' new signing Konrad Hurrell in action against England for Tonga during last year's World Cup semi-final.
Leeds Rhinos' new signing Konrad Hurrell in action against England for Tonga during last year's World Cup semi-final.

The 27-year-old centre will join them from Australian club Gold Coast Titans in pre-season on a three-year deal.

With 55 tries in 116 NRL appearances – for New Zealand Warriors and then Gold Coast – he is Rhinos’ highest-profile overseas signing since Danny Buderus in 2009 and is Rhinos’ first marquee signing, which means some of his wage will be exempt from their salary cap. Hurrell was a member of the Tongan squad that reached last year’s World Cup semi-finals and is 18th man for Saturday’s Test against Australia in Auckland.

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He also featured for Tonga, where he was born, in the 2013 World Cup, having made his NRL debut with the Warriors the previous year.

Konrad Hurrell pushes aside England captain Sean O'Loughlin during last year's World Cup semi-final.

He joined Gold Coast in 2016 and is the second Tongan international to join Rhinos ahead of the 2019 campaign, after stand-off Tuimoala Lolohea, who is in the starting side for Saturday’s game.

Incoming Rhinos boss Dave Furner was assistant-coach with Tonga at last year’s World Cup.

Hurrell, who is a former Gold Coast team-mate of Rhinos front-rower Nathaniel Peteru, said: “I’m looking forward to getting to Leeds and especially having the chance to work with Dave Furner again. I have done a lot with Dave in the Tongan camp over the last few years and he has helped me a lot.

“I am excited about the next three years. One of my best mates is Nate Peteru and he has told me about what I can expect so I am excited about the move.”

Leeds Rhinos' new signing Konrad Hurrell in action against England for Tonga during last year's World Cup semi-final.

Hurrell reckons the attacking nature of Betfred Super League will suit his style of play.

“When I ask people about playing in Super League they always say how enjoyable it is,” he said.

“I just want to play my part in the team and hopefully we can achieve success together. I have heard that the fans are crazy over in England and that is something I am looking forward to.

“I have spoken to Dave Furner about what he expects from me and he thinks my style will suit the game over there.

“I just need to do my job; do the hard running and make my tackles and the rest should take care of itself.”

Hurrell is Rhinos’ third confirmed signing, after Lolohea and teenage half-back Callum Mclelland.

More recruits are in the pipeline and Hurrell insisted: “Part of the attraction for me was the changes that Dave Furner is looking to bring in at the club.

“He has been looking to recruit quality players to add to the squad and it is an exciting time to be joining the club.

“I haven’t managed to win a Premiership ring in the NRL, but I feel like I am coming into my prime and the plan is to try and help Leeds get back up to challenging for honours so I can achieve success over the next three years.

“I have heard that the fans are really loud and they love the game. I can’t wait for the big games at Emerald Headingley and playing in front of those guys.”

Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield said: “We are delighted to have secured a player of international class like Konrad.

“Over the years Rhinos fans have always loved a strong-running centre and Konrad certainly fits that bill.

“He will provide a real strike threat for us in the centres and it is already exciting to think about Konrad and Kallum [Watkins] next season with our new-look options at half-back pulling the strings.”

Sinfield added: “I would like to thank Gold Coast Titans for the professional manner in our dealings with Konrad that will allow him to take up this exciting opportunity with the Rhinos.”

Hurrell will make his first appearance for Rhinos in the Wetherby Whaler Festive Challenge against Wakefield Trinity on Boxing Day.