Catalans Dragons have confirmed the signing of Leeds Rhinos hooker Paul Aiton on a three-year contract.
The Papua New Guinea international announced yesterday that he had turned down the offer of a new three-year deal at Headingley in preference for a move to a Super League rival.
The French club duly announced Aiton’s capture this afternoon and he will move at the end of the season.
“I am looking forward to the challenge of joining Catalans and a new lifestyle in Perpignan,” said the highly-rated player, who has been a star of the Super League season.
“I will always be honoured to have played for Leeds Rhinos but the opportunity to move to France from next season and be part of the Dragons was something that excited me at this stage in my career.
“Now that my future is sorted, my sole focus is on finishing this season in the best possible fashion and hopefully helping the Rhinos make more history.”
Aiton, 30, started his career at Penrith in 2006 where he spent three seasons, making 72 appearances and scoring eight tries before moving on to Cronulla.
He initially switched to Super League with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats in 2012, excelling during two campaigns at Belle Vue and prompting Leeds to fork out a “substantial cash fee” for his services two years ago.
Aiton helped them win the Challenge Cup last term and has been one of their leading performers again this year as they seek a treble of League Leaders’ Shield, Challenge Cup and Grand Final glory.
Catalans’ current hooker Ian Henderson announced his intention to join Sydney Roosters for 2016 earlier this week but replacement Aiton is yet another major recruit for the French side who have also secured Warrington’s England scrum-half Richie Myler and Australia second-row David Taylor for next term.
Catalans coach Laurent Frayssinous said: “I’m delighted that Paul has chosen to join us from next season.
“He will bring his experience, his qualities in attack and his attitude in defence.
“With a player like Ian Henderson leaving the club at the end of the season, it was important for us to replace him by a player of Paul’s calibre.
“He has become one of the players in Super League that sets the benchmark in his position.”