POWERFUL prop Lopini Paea says he feels like “a big kid” again after signing for Wakefield Trinity Wildcats on a one-year deal.
The Tongan international follows Catalan Dragons teammate Mickael Simon in swapping the south of France for Belle Vue next season.
Paea, 30, has averaged more metres per carry than any other Catalan forward during the First Utility Super League campaign and becomes the fourth new addition to the Trinity squad for 2015.
He follows Simon, Craig Hall and Matty Ashurst as head coach James Webster prepares for his first full season at the helm.
Paea, who played in the 2010 NRL Grand Final for Sydney Roosters before moving to France the following year, is relishing the switch.
“It’s a new challenge for me, a new lifestyle and I feel like a big kid starting all over again,” said the robust 16-stone forward.
“I’m really looking forward to coming to Wakefield and recapturing some of my best form.
“I’ve been really impressed with the way the team have been playing for each other since James Webster has taken over and as a player that’s something you want to be part of.
“I’ve spoken to him a couple of times and was very impressed with what he had to say.”
The brother of Hull FC prop Mickey Paea, he will help replace the retiring Andy Raleigh and, also, Richard Moore, who was recently released and joined Hunslet Hawks.
He swells the front-row ranks at Belle Vue, joining Simon, Grand Final winners Scott Anderson and Nick Scruton as well as youngster Daniel Smith.
Paea has made 76 Super League appearances for Catalan, including 19 this season, and he is expected to play against London Broncos tomorrow as the French club seek to strengthen their hold on a top eight spot.
Standing at six foot tall, he hopes to be challenging for the play-offs with Wakefield in 2015.
“I think Castleford have shown what can be achieved this year with hard work and I see a similar potential for Wakefield to make an impact and be part of the top eight in 2015,” said Paea, who captained his country in the 2008 World Cup.
“I think we’ll have a good balance of options in the front-row, too. “There’s some experience, some grunt and some impact.
“We all bring our different styles and I think they can complement each other to help take the team forward.
“The stakes are raised with the new structure for next year and I think the desire for teams to be in the top eight will be even higher than ever.”
Trinity coach Webster added: “He’s an experienced player and been a pivotal part of what is a very big and aggressive pack at Catalan.
“We’re extremely happy to have him with us for next year.
“I think we’re well covered with Simon, Scruton, Anderson, Paea and Daniel Smith coming through as well.
“We’re looking a lot stronger in that area for next year.”
Paea’s capture means Wakefield’s bid to sign explosive Parramata Eels front-row Fuifui Moimoi is effectively over.
Meanwhile, Wakefield scrum-half Tim Smith – who is on loan from Salford Red Devils – will be allowed to play against his parent club at Belle Vue on Sunday.
Both sides are locked on 19 points and need a win to keep alive slim hopes of reaching the top eight.
Some clubs choose to invoke clauses preventing their loan players playing against them in Super League but Salford have no qualms about the Australian doing just that.
They bought him for a substantial fee 12 months ago but Smith was loaned back in June and has been inspirational since then.
Daniel Smith and Pita Godinet are both back in contention for Webster who will name his 19-man squad for the match this afternoon.