WORLD CUP finalist Kevin Locke has been hailed as one of Wakefield Trinity Wildcats biggest-ever signings.
Locke, who played for New Zealand against Australia at Old Trafford in 2013, has joined Wildcats until the end of the season and is set to make his debut at home to Hull next Wednesday.
His decision to join the club is a huge boost for Wakefield, who have lost their last 16 First Utility Super League fixtures, are nine points adrift at the foot of the table and face potentially being without a home ground next year.
Auckand-born Locke made 88 appearances for New Zealand Warriors from 2009-2014 and has played eight times for the Kiwis, including as full-back in the World Cup showpiece less than two years ago.
He joined Salford Red Devils on a three-year contract last season, but failed to settle and “resigned” last week after falling out with owner Marwan Koukash.
Locke played in only 13 of Salford’s games since joining the club last July and has been out of action since May 1.
The 26-year-old signed for Wakefield as a free agent, subject to visa confirmation, following a medical yesterday to check on his condition after a minor knee operation.
“I would think he is one of the club’s top-five signings of all-time,” chairman Michael Carter said.
“Hopefully he will play next week. He is keen to go and he’s just looking to enjoy playing rugby again.
“We think we can help him achieve that, which will be good for him and us.
“I can’t wait to see him pull on the red, white and blue jersey.”
Locke was understood to be Salford’s highest-paid player, but Carter insisted it is a deal Wakefield can afford.
Lopini Paea, Dean Collis and Jarrod Sammut have all recently left the club and the chairman said: “He’s not coming here on the money he was on at Salford.
“He has come to play and to enjoy himself.
“He has come here because (new coach) Brian Smith is here and if he has a bit of fun with us and then goes back to Australia or New Zealand at the end of the season having done a good job, everybody wins.”
Locke is Wildcats’ second signing of the week, after they agreed a deal to bring in Samoan international forward Michael Sio.
The Kiwi’s arrival is welcome news for Wakefield fans at a tough time in the club’s history.
Carter confirmed he has given representatives of Belle Vue’s owners, the Bank of Ireland, six months’ notice of the club’s intention to move out of their current home.
The chairman said the amount Wildcats are paying in rent for the stadium is “unsustainable”, though they are willing to stay put if that can be renegotiated.
There has so far been no major progress on Wildcats’ hopes of moving to a purpose-built venue at the Newmarket site in Stanley, with Carter claiming the club has been let down by the local council.