AUSTRALIAN hooker Beau Falloon has not been signed as a stop-gap measure, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington insists.
Rhinos were linked with several No 9s, before signing Falloon from NRL outfit Gold Coast Titans on a one-year deal.
It is unusual for Rhinos to sign an overseas player for a single season and that has sparked speculation the Super League champions and Challenge Cup holders could have somebody else lined up for 2017.
But Hetherington said there is no significance in the length of the contract and predicted Falloon could be a long-term member of Rhinos’ squad.
The Aussie is set to make his first appearance in the Boxing Day showdown with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats at Headingley and Hetherington said he is expecting big things from Rhinos’ latest recruit.
“He is a pretty experienced player,” Hetherington said.
“He has played a lot of games in the NRL and he has only just turned 28, so he could well have his best years ahead of him.
“The intention is he will come over and end up having a long and successful career with us.
“You shouldn’t read too much into the length of his contract – it is not that significant.
“If both parties are happy with each other, it is inevitable that could be extended.”
The one-year deal gives Falloon an opportunity to test the water in England and for the club to ensure he comes up to scratch.
“He has never been to England before, so it is a new experience for him,” Hetherington added.
“He is full of excitement and optimism.
“Hopefully he will come here and enjoy his time at the Rhinos and we will enjoy having him in the squad.
“We will see how it goes and then look to extend it.”
Meanwhile, Hetherington said Rhinos will not be looking to add to their squad for next year after missing out on dual-code superstar Sam Burgess.
Leeds had been keen to end Burgess’ exile in rugby union and were willing to pay a transfer fee to his club Bath, but he has instead opted to return to South Sydney Rabbitohs.
“That was a complete one-off for us,” Hetherington said of the bid to make Burgess a marquee player for 2016.
“Very rarely does a player of his world class ability become available. Souths were always favourites, but it was always possible he could have joined Leeds Rhinos, if only for one year.
“We would have done what we needed to do to accommodate him, but that has not happened. To bring a player into our current squad and try and improve it, it would have to be an exceptional player.
“Clearly Sam fitted that bill, but I am not sure there are many others who would – and they have to be available. Also, Sam is English and our overseas quota is now full.”
Hetherington said a decision on which young players to promote to Rhinos’ full-time squad – and whether anyone will be promoted into the top-20 – is due to be made soon.