SUPER LEAGUE leaders Leeds Rhinos today confirmed winger/full-back Ben Jones-Bishop will leave the club at the end of this season.
Jones-Bishop, who scored a brace of tries in the 22-14 win at Castleford Tigers two days ago, is out of contract this autumn and has turned down the offer of a new deal.
The 25-year-old Rhinos academy product’s brace against Castleford took his tally for Leeds to 53 tries in 76 appearances and he has crossed seven times in just five games this year.
A former Yorkshire Evening Post Shooting Star, Jones-Bishop made his Rhinos debut in 2008 and played in the 2011 and 2012 Grand Final wins as well as winning the World Club Challenge in 2012.
But he dropped down the pecking order when Leeds signed England winger Tom Briscoe from Hull and has been a fringe player this term.
Confirming his impending departure, Jones-Bishop said in a club statement: “I have been at the Rhinos for seven years now so it will be sad for me to leave and it was a big decision to reject the offer of a longer contract last season, but I wanted to keep my options open until now.
“I will miss the Rhinos players and fans, but they can be assured I want to finish my time here on a high and I will be trying my best to contribute to that success in any way I can.”
Leeds chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “It is always disappointing to lose a local player like Ben who has come through our academy and made his mark in the first team, but we fully understand his decision to turn down the offer of a longer-term contract last season to leave his options open.
“Ben was always going to be a valuable member of this year’s squad and he will continue to be so until the end of the season.
“He will leave for a club of his choice as a good friend of the Rhinos and with everyone’s best wishes.”
Coach Brian McDermott added: “Ben has shown what a complete professional he is this season with his attitude and commitment to the team through what has obviously been a frustrating period for him personally.
“Every day in training he is helping to set the standard we aspire to, whether he is involved on the gameday or not and I appreciate that, as do his team-mates.
“He remains one of the best young English players in our competition and he has shown, when called upon this season as he did at Castleford, that he is a clinical finisher of chances.
“It will be sad to see him go at the end of the season, but he will go with all our best wishes and I know he will have a big part still to play in this season for the Rhinos.”
News of Jones-Bishop’s availability will alert a host of Super League sides - led by Salford Red Devils and Warrington Wolves - and he could also be a target for rugby union clubs.
Meanwhile, Jones-Bishop said it was “great” to be back in the team for the trip to Castleford and pledged to give his all whenever selected for the rest of the campaign.
He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “It is hard. I haven’t played in two or three weeks, but we get looked after well and they make sure I do the right things to make sure when I do come in I don’t look out of place and can carry on for whoever I replace.
“For me any game is a big game as I’m not sure when the next one will be.
“I just go out there, try my best for team and contribute. It’s tough, but as a squad our goals are to top the table and win every game.
“I will play when I can and try my best.
“Everyone wants to be involved in a great squad, everyone’s hungry to be involved and everyone is committed to each other.
“I think that shows out there in defence.”