Castleford Tigers have completed the signing of Niall Evalds for the 2021 season.
League Express can reveal the Tigers have clinched a deal, believed to be an initial one-year contract, for the Salford fullback, who has emerged as one of the competition’s best players in the last 12 months.
He was arguably the top free agent on the market after a stunning 2019 campaign which saw him place a crucial role in Salford’s unexpected run to the Grand Final and earn international recognition.
Evalds will become the club’s primary fullback next season and replace Jordan Rankin, who is set to leave at the end of the season when his contract expires. A return to Australia is believed to be the likely destination for the 28-year-old.
The news will come as a bitter blow to the Red Devils, who had gone all out to retain their prize asset.
Salford had offered a lucrative deal and were hoping that Evalds’ long association with the club would be enough to ensure he remained at the AJ Bell Stadium in the long-term.
However, Evalds, 26, has instead decided to make the move to West Yorkshire.
Since arriving as a teenager he has become the club’s leading try-scorer during the Super League era, crossing 83 times in 126 Super League games.
But after eight seasons with the Red Devils, he will now depart at the end of the year to link up with Daryl Powell, in a deal that will be seen as a coup for the Tigers.
The deal is only thought to have been concluded over the last few days.
Last week, Salford head coach Ian Watson had told League Express that he was hoping that Evalds would stay.
“We’ve made Niall an offer,” Watson confirmed.
“We’re speaking to Niall and his agent and hopefully we can get something done. He’s a big part of how we play and we’ve created our system over the past four years around him as he’s been the mainstay; we’ve basically built our game in and around Niall.
“There are clubs looking at him, so it will come down to what they can offer and what Niall wants to do, I’m sure his agent has spoken to other clubs, but hopefully he decides he wants to stay at Salford and fulfil his potential here.”
It adds to the number of key players head coach Ian Watson has seen come and go from the club during his time in charge.
In recent years the likes of Ben Murdoch-Masila, Gareth O’Brien, Rob Lui, Jackson Hastings and Josh Jones have all departed, while others, such as Craig Kopczak, Lama Tasi, Olsi Krasniqi, Adam Walne, George Griffin and Derrell Olpherts, have all taken up deals elsewhere.