Watkins: I’d rather go to union than the NRL

Kallum Watkins admits that if he had the choice, he would probably choose rugby union over the NRL.

But, luckily for Leeds fans, he does not have that choice to make after signing a new five-year deal with the Rhinos last week.

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington hailed the signing as a coup for the club and Super League after apparent interest from both the NRL and the other code.

That interest may have been news to Watkins, who insists he never had any formal approaches from anyone.

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However, he is more than happy to commit his future to the Rhinos for what will prove to be a transitional period until the end of this decade.

Come the end of the 2019 season, Jamie Peacock, Kylie Leuluai, Kevin Sinfield, Rob Burrow and Danny McGuire are all likely to be long gone.

But Watkins is looking forward to being a spearhead for the next generation at Headingley.

He said: “It is going to be a difficult time as they are all going to be going at about the same time.

“But what Gary has tried to do is get players signed up long term that are going to be committed to the club.

“I’m very happy to get everything settled and very pleased to be part of it.

“Making the right decisions is crucial, given how short your career is. There was a bit to think about but, knowing the club, it is fantastic.

“The future is bright. There are players coming through from the Academy and they have played well. I am really happy to be part of it.

“Obviously, there were rumours and it is something you have to consider. It’s whether you are happy or whether you want to take on a new challenge elsewhere.

“As far as I know there were no firm offers. A lot of rumours came out, but I’m happy to sign again for Leeds.

“Gary is good with business and I wanted to be part of the future at the Rhinos.”

Watkins was part of England’s 16-12 defeat against Australia on Sunday, and his performances for Leeds prior to that had put him on the radar of NRL sides.

When pressed as to which way he would go if it ever came down to that choice, he expressed a preference for union.

He added: “I would have to think about it. Maybe rugby union, because it is a new sport, but my future has already been decided.”

Since arriving in Australia Watkins has not attracted much media spotlight.

James Graham and the Burgess twins have been the main target for the Australian media, while Sam Tomkins will be targeted by the Kiwi media when England land in New Zealand today.

But English players who don’t play in the NRL is being overlooked, which is symptomatic of how Super League is regarded in both Australia and New Zealand.

Watkins, however, knew what was coming and admits he couldn’t care less, as he prefers to do his talking on the pitch.

He said: “They are entitled to their opinion.

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“It is just part and parcel of how it has been for a long time. We are used to it. We can take it on the chin.

“But we want to be the best, and it’s been a long time since England have been successful. We want to be at the top and all the boys are raring to go.”