Leeds Rhinos Challenge Cup winner joins Castleford Tigers with immediate effect: New man could make debut aganst Catalans Dragons this weekend

A member of Leeds Rhinos' 2020 Cup-winning side has made a mid-season switch to Castleford Tigers.

By Peter Smith
Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 8:48 pm

Second-rower Alex Mellor has signed a deal until the end of 2024 and could make his debut against Catalans Dragons at the Jungle on Sunday.

Mellor, 27, moved to Leeds from Huddersfield Giants ahead of the 2020 season and was in the final year of his contract.

He had been linked with Castleford for next season, but the immediate move was a surprise.

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Tigers coach Lee Radford is excited about his new recruit. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

His 34th and final game for Rhinos was a two-point defeat at Castleford on Easter Monday, but he did make his comeback from a sternum injury on dual-registration with Bradford Bulls two weeks ago.

Halifax-born Mellor began his career at Bradford, where he played under current Rhinos coach Rohan Smith.

His time at Leeds was disrupted by injuries and he played only six times for them this year.

He dropped down the squad number order when James Bentley joined Rhinos from St Helens last autumn and youngster Morgan Gannon has also forced his way ahead in the queue for second-row spots.

Alex Mellor with then interim-coach Jamie Jones-Buchanan after the defeat at Castleford which proved to be his last game for Leeds. Picture by Allan Mckenzie/SWpix.com.

Despite that, Mellor insisted: “Going to Leeds was a big deal and I’ve nothing bad to say about Leeds.

"It’s just one of those things that we have gone our separate ways.

"I enjoyed it, it’s a great place to play, the fans are good and I’ve only positive things to say, but that’s previous.

“Now I’m focusing on the present and future with Cas.”

Alex Mellor was a Cup winner at Wembley two years ago. Picture by Ed Sykes/SWpix.com.

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Smith stressed Mellor "leaves with our best wishes".

He said: "He was out of contract at the end of this season and had told the club he had made his plans for 2023 and beyond.

"We wish him well at the Tigers and thank him for his efforts at the Rhinos.”

Reflecting on his move, Mellor added: “It has been a bit of a long process getting things sorted, so to finally have it all figured out is a good feeling.

“You look at some of the signings we’ve made and the prospects we’ve got for next year, it is really exciting.

“It is not one of those places that you come and aim for mid-table, this is one of those places where we want to be up the table and push.

“Looking at the squad we’re building, it’s definitely something we can do.”

Mellor identified boss Lee Radford as a “big reason” why he signed for Tigers.

“I sat down with him the first time and felt comfortable around him and liked what he had to say, his persona, how he viewed things in rugby,” he said.

Outlining his aims for the rest of this year, Mellor pledged: “To cement myself in the team is definitely one, but I want to kick on and hopefully find some play-off football this year and find some form again.

“I feel like the last eight/ten months have been a bit of a struggle for me playing-wise.

“I got a really bad injury and it sort of set me back.

“I’ve been in and out injured so for me it is about finding a bit of consistency in my playing time, hopefully staying injury-free and kicking on with Cas to see what we can do.”

Radford hailed Mellor as a “really athletic, strike ball player”.

He said: “I’ve watched him over the years and been impressed with him.

“He has probably not struck the chords he wanted to so far this year.

“I think we’re picking up someone who we can try to get back into the swing of things and enjoying his rugby again.”

Radford went on: “He has been on the cusp of the England Knights selection, he’s of the age where his best years are still in front of him and I think he will be a good coup for us.

“I got a really good feeling for him and everyone I’ve spoken to, player and coach, has only had good things to say about him in how he trains and approaches training.

“Competition is what we need and this time of year to pick someone up of his quality is fantastic, as is having him long-term too.

“Hopefully, this place will be good for him as he will be good for us.”