JOINING LEEDS Rhinos has taken New Zealand-born forward Nathaniel Peteru from one extreme to another.
Peteru, who will celebrate his 26th birthday on New Year’s Day, has swapped the sunshine of Australia’s Gold Coast for the cold and gloom of an English pre-season.
More significantly, the move to Super League has seen Peteru leave a struggling team and join one brimming with success.
His former club, Gold Coast Titans, finished second from bottom in the southern hemisphere’s NRL this year, but Peteru has signed for Super League’s most decorated outfit, who are still basking in the glory of their eighth Grand Final triumph.
“I’ve come from a team that’s always been underdogs,” Peteru said of his change in status.
“Coming here is the complete opposite, every team wants to beat you.
“I am looking forward to it and to being part of the squad.”
With 23 first team appearances under his belt for Gold Coast, Peteru has touched down in England as largely an unknown quantity.
He is also in the dark about what to expect, but Leeds’ management – and fellow Kiwis with experience of the competition here – believe he is made for Super League.
“In the NRL is it a very defence-oriented type of game,” he observed.
“I didn’t know too much about how Leeds play, but watching a few of their games and talking to Brian [McDermott], the coach, gave me a bit of an idea of how the game is played over here.
“Talking to a few of the boys back in New Zealand, they really think it will suit my style so I am looking forward to it.”
Gaining a regular place in Leeds’ starting 13 is his first objective, but the front-rower insisted he is taking nothing for granted.
“A big part was I wanted to have a fresh start as well as kind of establish myself more,” Peteru said of his move to England.
“In the NRL I’ve been more of a bench/impact player.
“I am looking to take my game to the next level.
“Realistically, starting every week is the goal. I have got to work my way in and earn that first.
“There’s a lot of good players here and obviously Leeds Rhinos are the champions.
“I don’t expect to just walk in, I have got to work hard to earn that.
“I am prepared to do it and I am looking forward to the season coming up.”
Peteru is poised to make his first appearance for Leeds in their Boxing Day game against Wakefield Trinity.
The traditional fixture has been switched to Belle Vue this year due to building work at Headingley.
Peteru arrived in England at the end of last month and reflected: “I have been settling in really well.
“I have really enjoyed the fresh start. The boys have been really welcoming and I have really enjoyed my time here.
“I didn’t know much about the squad before I got here, I have been studying up quite a bit.
“I probably only saw the boys play twice last year so I’ve been watching quite a bit of film of their games and working with the coaches to get me up to speed.”
Meanwhile, Wakefield have added to their squad by signing former England academy full-back or stand-off Ryan Hampshire from Leigh Centurions on a one-year contract.
Hampshire, who has also played for Wigan Warriors and Castleford Tigers, was part-way through a two-year deal, but became available after Leigh were relegated to the Championship.
The Wakefield-born 22-year-old played his junior rugby with the Normanton Knights club and said he had always hoped to sign for Trinity at some stage.
“I am really excited to be able to represent the club I have followed since I was a young boy and it has come a lot earlier than expected,” he said.
“It has been a long off-season for me, waiting to get something sorted, but my manager Craig [Harrison] has managed to get the deal finalised over the last couple of days and I am looking forward to getting stuck into training.”
Trinity coach Chris Chester reckons Hampshire’s arrival will give him more options in the back division. He said: “It has taken some work to get there, but we have finally got something over the line and I am delighted Ryan chose to sign with us for a year.
“Ryan certainly gives us some genuine competition in the halves with Finny [Liam Finn], Milky [Jacob Miller] and also Kyle Wood. I am really pleased, he is a fantastic young player and I am looking forward to working with him.”