Leigh Centurions have confirmed the signing of Castleford Tigers centre Ben Crooks on a one-year loan deal until the end of November 2017.
The arrival of Crooks ends Leigh’s search for a centre, which has seen them linked with a number of Super League stars including Ryan Atkins and Junior Sa’u.
Crooks’ arrival at Leigh adds further substance linking Zak Hardaker with a move to the Tigers, with Crooks’ departure freeing up a space in Castleford’s roster. He will be allowed to play for Leigh when they face Castleford in 2017.
Still only 23, Crooks has extensive Super League experience, bursting onto the scene with Hull FC before joining Parramatta ahead of the 2015 season, although he returned to Super League with Castleford last year.
He scored six tries in 28 appearances for the Tigers as they finished fifth in Super League.
Leigh Centurions head coach Neil Jukes said: “I am delighted to secure Ben’s services for the forthcoming season. He is a young, talented and athletic player with his best years ahead of him and has already packed a great deal into his career.
“The coaching staff identified Ben as a perfect fit for our model and when Castleford gave us permission to speak to him we outlined the challenges we face and the ambitions we have for our club and how we saw his role.
“Ben was persuaded to join us and the very fact that a player of his ability feels he can achieve his ambitions at Leigh Centurions is testament to the way our club has developed over the past year.
“Ben made a big impact at Hull FC and then made the decision to test himself in the NRL. Even though things may not have worked out as he intended I am sure the experience will have made him a better player. He came back to England to become a key player in Daryl Powell’s talented squad at Castleford during the last season and he greatly adds to the strength of our squad as we prepare for the new season. All of the coaching staff are excited at the prospect of working with him.
“I’d like to thank Daryl Powell and everyone at Castleford and also Ben’s agent David Howes for their assistance in this loan arrangement.”
Leigh Centurions owner Derek Beaumont said: “I am really pleased to get Ben on board and I would like to thank Castleford for their assistance with this. We needed a quality addition to our centres and this is exactly that. Ben was outstanding at Hull where he made the Super League Dream Team.
“I was really excited by him before he went to Australia before returning to play a significant number of games for Cas last season. He is a big lad with lots of skill and I know our coaching team are looking forward to working with him. He is relishing the challenge we face and is another proven Super League player that brings a wealth of experience to the group.
“I know he will enjoy his time with us and be a positive acquisition to a squad that is now nearing completion. It is yet another indication of our intentions and ability to continue to improve our group. I am looking forward to seeing Ben meet the challenge head on.”