Warrington Wolves have confirmed the signing of England international Gareth Widdop on a three-year deal from the beginning of 2020.
The Wolves have beat interest from around Super League to land the 29-year-old, who had stated his desire to come to Super League for the final years of his career.
His arrival comes a huge coup not only for Warrington but for Super League. Widdop is regarded as one of the world’s best players having played over 200 games in the NRL for Melbourne and St George Illawarra Dragons, winning the Premiership with the storm in 2012.
A host of clubs were understood to be interested in the Halifax-born star, but he has chosen to join the Wolves, where he will become their second marquee player next year alongside Blake Austin, the Australian halfback who moved from the NRL ahead of the current campaign.
Widdop said: “With decisions like this there are a lot of things to look into. I think Warrington, in terms of the club itself, has got a lot of history, is a great team and is run very well. I have a lot of mates in the team and it’s been a top club for a number of years. It’s a club I want to be a part of and win some silverware with.
“I’ve been away from home for a long time now, and growing up in Halifax I always had dreams of playing in Super League. I’m at the stage in my career now when I have that opportunity; Simon (Moran), Karl (Fitzpatrick) and Steve (Price) have given me that opportunity to come home and live out a childhood dream. I’m really excited for that. It’s a long way off yet but it’s something I’m looking forward to.
“With my experience of playing in NRL, and having been lucky enough to represent my country, I am hoping I can draw from my leadership and bring that to Warrington. It’s a good team with some great players in the squad already; playing in the halves it’s a key position and hopefully I can do my part for the team whatever that might be.
“I’m looking forward to playing in front of Warrington fans and the fans of Super League in general. The crowd gets behind you and I’m excited for that. Every time I’ve been home and played for England the crowd is certainly behind you and I’ve witnessed what Warrington fans are like first hand having played here a couple of years ago. I’m now looking forward to playing on the right side of it.”
The deal represents one of the biggest in Warrington’s history.
Karl Fitzpatrick, the Wolves CEO said: “This is arguably the biggest signing in the club’s history and quite possibly in the history of Super League. Bringing in this world-class player is a major boost for the sport in this country. In 2020 Gareth will be a fantastic addition to an already formidable squad. This, once again, demonstrates the ambition of Warrington Wolves.”
Steve Price added: “I’ve had the pleasure of coaching Gareth having signed him when at the Dragons. He’s a terrific person who sets high standards for himself and is a really good family man. He’s matured into an outstanding leader and has played on the biggest stage in the game at international level. Gareth’s a player with integrity and a high level of experience; he’ll complement our team in 2020 and help take us to another level. He’s a huge signing for the game in England.
“It says how good our competition is when a marquee player in Australia shows the desire to come and play in Super League while holding aspirations to keep playing for his country. We see ourselves as a benchmark club in Super League and to be able to sign a player like Gareth is credit to our owner in Simon Moran, chairman Stuart Middleton and all involved.”