Leeds Rhinos confirm decision on Nene Macdonald's future as statement ends bizarre saga

The bizarre saga over star centre Nene Macdonald’s future at Leeds Rhinos has been resolved.
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Rhinos today (Wednesday) confirmed they have “mutually agreed to part ways” with the 29-year-old Papua New Guinea international.

Macdonald joined Rhinos in pre-season from Leigh, initially on a two-year deal. That was extended in July until the end of 2027, making him the club’s longest-contracted player, but his status at Leeds was thrown into doubt last month when he failed to return from paternity leave in Australia.

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He was booked on a flight to England and named in the initial squad for Rhinos’ game at Hull FC on September 2, but did not arrive.

Rhinos have released a statement on Nene Macdonald after he failed to return from paternity leave in Australia. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Rhinos have released a statement on Nene Macdonald after he failed to return from paternity leave in Australia. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Rhinos have released a statement on Nene Macdonald after he failed to return from paternity leave in Australia. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

Macdonald stunned Rhinos’ management by playing for a PNG Prime Minister’s select side against an Australian representative team on September 23, the day after Leeds’ final fixture of the season.

He was quoted in the Australian media at the time as saying he was still contracted to Rhinos and “hadn’t done anything wrong”, but it seemed then his spell at the club had come to an end and that has now been confirmed.

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A club statement said: “Leeds Rhinos and player Nene Macdonald have mutually agreed to part ways with immediate effect, bringing an end to Macdonald’s one-year stay at Headingley.

Nene Macdonald scores for Rhinos against Wakefield at Headingley in March. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.Nene Macdonald scores for Rhinos against Wakefield at Headingley in March. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
Nene Macdonald scores for Rhinos against Wakefield at Headingley in March. Picture by Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com.
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“Macdonald returned to Australia in August to be present for the birth of his second child and he and his family will now stay in Australia.”

In the statement, Macdonald said: “I really enjoyed my time at the Rhinos and I am grateful for the opportunity and support from all the players and staff.”

Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington added: “Nene was very popular with our players and a favourite with our fans and we will miss him. We wish him well in his next venture and we will now focus on finding a replacement for 2024.”

Macdonald scored two tries in 20 games for Rhinos, who are now being linked with Sydney Roosters centre Paul Momirovski.