The battle to stay in Super League took a dramatic twist today when Wakefield Trinity Wildcats signed prop Nick Scruton from relegation rivals Bradford Bulls.
Scruton is the first player to leave Bulls since they were deducted six points last week as a punishment for entering administration.
He follows pivot Jarrod Sammut who switched between the two clubs a fortnight ago.
The signing strengthens Wildcats and is a blow to Bulls, who are beginning to lose players from what had previously been a solid squad.
Scruton, who began his career at Leeds Rhinos, has signed a one-year deal. Wakefield have paid an undisclosed fee, which they described as “nominal”.
He will not feature away to Wigan Warriors tomorrow, but is set to make his debut against Catalan Dragons a week later.
Scruton signed for Bulls in 2009. A Grand Final and World Club Challenge winner with Leeds, the 29-year-old made more than 100 appearances for Bradford, despite having two injury disrupted seasons.
He was back to full fitness and top form in 2013, sweeping the board at Bulls’ end of year awards, when he won the vote of head coach Francis Cummins, the players and supporters as the club’s top performer.
“It has sunk in a bit more today now I’ve been down to the ground and seen the boys train,” said Scruton, who finalised the deal on Saturday lunchtime.
“I’m just looking forward to getting out there and training myself now and getting on with the next chapter of my career.
“A lot of the (Bradford) fans won’t believe it, but yesterday was one of the worst days of my life, it genuinely was.
“They’ve not all been good years, we’ve had ups and downs, but I have loved every minute of my time at Bradford Bulls and it was a sad day for me to decide that the best decision for me and my family was to leave and come to Wakefield. That’s the decision I’ve made and now I’m just looking forward to getting on with it.
“It’s pretty easy being a rugby player, we just get out there and do our job. We can’t control many things apart from the rugby side so that’s what I want to do now and get out there and play well for Wakefield Wildcats.”
Scruton, whose wife Alice works for Wakefield. made his final appearance for Bradford in their win at Wildcats last month.
“I don’t think it was a cracking game for anybody that day and I don’t think it did Wakefield justice,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to getting stuck in with the lads and there is a lot of quality here. Once we hit our straps we can drag ourselves away from the relegation scrap and claw our way up the table.
“Last pre-season was one of the first pre-seasons I’ve had in about four years, with injuries and niggles. I’ve had another pre-season this year so I’m looking to go one better. Last year was a good year, but I know I can play better and I’m glad that it’s at Wakefield so I’m hoping they’ll see my best year yet.”
Wildcats boss Richard Agar said: “It’s difficult circumstances for Bradford and there’s an understanding from ourselves that we’ve been through all that pain and we know the problems they’re facing and just how difficult it is
“We had some truly rough times in the last six months, but fortunately for us the club’s got in a much more stable position.
“To get Jarrod Sammut and now Nick on board at this time of the season is fantastic news. We wanted to sure up our front row and to get a player of Nick’s quality gives the club and playing staff a huge boost.
“Last year was arguably his best season as a senior first grader. He’s got some great experience for Leeds and been a leading light for Bradford. He plays in a very up-front manner, he’s aggressive, gets the ball forward well and is a very strong player.”
A Bulls statement confirmed Scruton has joined Wildcats “for an undisclosed fee agreed by the club’s administrators”.
In the statement, Bulls chief executive Robbie Hunter-Paul said: “It is obviously hugely disappointing to lose a player to a rival club and this is definitely not a wish of Bradford Bulls. This is the nature of the situation we find ourselves in.
“I have spoken at great lengths to head coach Francis Cummins and football manager Stuart Duffy who inform me that there is a positive feel in camp – despite the current predicament.
“And both of them are not willing to allow the departure of a player to affect the mood, ahead of this weekend’s game.
“Administration is difficult at the best of times, but we are getting on with the task at hand. For sure, we are vulnerable at the moment, but we are working hard to ensure the squad remains intact.”