LEIGH LEOPARDS have confirmed the signing of Ava Seumanufagai on a contract until the end of the 2023 season.
The 31-year-old prop forward is expected to join up with his new Leopards teammates later this week.
After making his debut for Wests Tigers in 2013, Seumanufagai made more than 140 appearances in the NRL and enjoyed a two-year spell in the UK with Leeds Rhinos in 2019-20.
Leopards Head of Rugby Chris Chester explained that coach Adrian Lam needed a quota spot replacement for the departed Blake Ferguson, and both see Seumanufagai as an ideal fit for the club, adding size, athleticism, and power to the Leopards’ pack.
“Adrian tasked me with finding another frontrower and Ava is a big and athletic body who will take the juice out of the defensive line,” Chester said.
“He’s an experienced player who is highly thought of by coaches I respect in Australia and a couple of my close contacts there both recommended him unreservedly.
“He fits in well with what we need and what we want for our club, and we can’t wait to get him over here to join the squad. Hopefully he will be arriving on Wednesday.
“Ava is a great addition to an already strong group. By recruiting a player of this quality in a key position, we have used that vacant quota spot wisely.”
Seumanufagai was born in Wellington, New Zealand, and was recruited by Parramatta Eels as a junior before moving to the Tigers in 2012.
He went on to make 105 NRL appearances over five seasons and, after a short spell at Cronulla, he joined the Rhinos in May 2019, playing in the Rhinos’ Challenge Cup-winning side during the Covid-disrupted 2020 season alongside his new Leopards team-mate Tom Briscoe.
He returned to the NRL with Canterbury Bulldogs in 2021 and has scored nine tries in 173 career games so far.
The Leopards are aiming to secure a full house for their opening Super League fixture against Salford Red Devils on Friday, February 17.
To help them do that, they have engaged the chart-topping band Scouting For Girls to perform both before the game and at half-time.
The club will also unveil its new club mascot, which League Express understands will be called Leeto the Leopard.