Champions Leeds Rhinos’ long hunt for a specialist centre has ended with the signing of Aussie Joel Moon from Super League rivals Salford City Reds.
Rhinos have paid an undisclosed fee for 24-year-old Moon, who was due to arrive in Leeds from Australia today.
Leeds have been without an experienced centre since veteran Keith Senior’s Rhinos career was ended by a knee injury in May, 2011.
Zak Hardaker – who was given the No 4 jersey this year – is now established at full-back following Brent Webb’s exit from the club.
And fellow England international Carl Ablett is keen to revert to his favoured position in the back-row, despite filling in at centre in Rhinos’ 2011 and 2012 Grand Final wins.
Moon has signed a three-year deal and is Rhinos’ second recruit for 2013 – alongside countryman Mitch Achurch.
He will take Webb’s place in the squad and add strike power to an already formidable three-quarter line.
Coach Brian McDermott said: “Joel is a player we have been monitoring for a while.
“It is great to bring him into the club now, so we can improve our squad from a position of strength.
“We always said that any player we brought to the club would have to add significantly to the group and I think the fact we have signed a player with as much experience at a young age definitely fits that criteria.
“He is an exciting signing not just for next season, but as part of this young group moving forward.”
McDermott added: “He has consistently scored tries in the NRL during his early career with Brisbane and New Zealand Warriors and impressed last season, earning a call-up into the Exiles squad.
“At 24, his best years are still ahead of him and it is an exciting prospect to think about him coming into our young backline and playing alongside the likes of Zak Hardaker, Kallum Watkins, Ben Jones-Bishop and Ryan Hall.”
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington is “delighted” to have finally concluded a deal to bring Moon to Leeds.
“We made no secret of the fact that we were looking to sign a centre who could complement our existing squad and add quality to our group. Joel was our preferred option,” he said.
A tribunal turned down an attempt by Moon to secure a release from his Salford contract, which could have led to a return to Australia’s NRL.
Moon is understood to have been homesick at Salford, but Hetherington said he is confident the player and his family will settle in Leeds.
“We’ve only ever had one overseas player who’s not settled with us and that was Greg Eastwood,” said the Rhinos chief.
“Players, once they come to Leeds, not only settle with the club, but with the city as well. I am sure Joel and his wife and family will do that.”
Moon is set to make his first appearance for Leeds in the Heatshot Festive Challenge clash with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on Boxing Day.
He began his career with Brisbane Broncos in 2006, scoring 10 tries in 31 NRL appearances.
That was followed by three seasons at New Zealand Warriors, producing 15 tries in 51 games.
Originally from Caloundra, in Queensland, Moon toured England in 2005 with the Australian Institute of Sport.
He has also played in the half-backs and as a forward earlier in his career.