Why Kallum Watkins has not ruled out a return to Leeds Rhinos
AS HE prepares to bid farewell to Leeds Rhinos, captain Kallum Watkins admits it may not be forever.
Watkins has two more games left in his Rhinos career before joining Australian NRL outfit Gold Coast Titans on a contract until the end of 2021.
The 28-year-old will be available for Friday’s game at St Helens and the Sunday home encounter with Catalans Dragons on June 30 before his Titans deal officially begins the following day.
Having spent all his career so far at Rhinos, Watkins will be 30 when his Gold Coast deal ends and asked if he would consider a return to Leeds, he insisted: “Never say never.”
He stressed: “I would never rule it out. We’ll see how we go in the two years I am there.
“If all goes well then probably I can progress on there, but at the same time if I do plan to come back I would never say never to coming back here.”
Rhinos announced earlier this month that the three-time Grand Final winner had been granted a release from the final two years of his contract.
He was set to leave at the end of this season, but the move was brought forward after Gold Coast said they were keen to bring him in straight away.
The England centre – who missed much of last season with a serious knee injury – felt it would be an opportunity missed if he did not go now.
“At this time I should be playing at my peak,” he said. “It has been difficult with the injury side of it, getting back to playing the best I can be.
“That is something I am really focused on now. Going to the NRL earlier will be testing times, but I think it will benefit me going into it and I am really excited for it.”
Leeds’ other first-choice centre, Konrad Hurrell, joined them from Gold Coast in the off-season.
Watkins said: “Their results have been pretty close, I know they have struggled in terms of getting wins, but at the same time they look like a group that are sticking together.
“They just need a run of games in terms of getting results, but the whole competition’s tough and teams are all beating each other. It is a fierce competition, but I am excited to be part of it.
“My family are excited for it as well. As soon as the news came out a couple of weeks ago my wife was prioritising Australia! It is a new journey for all of us and I want us to enjoy it.”
Despite his pedigree, Watkins admitted he can’t expect to walk straight into the Gold Coast team. He insisted: “I am just going to go there and learn as much as I can and as soon as I get an opportunity I will give it 100 per cent.
“They have told me it’s an exciting time for them over the next couple of years and I am happy to be part of it.”
Watkins will become part of a growing number of English players at NRL clubs. His former Leeds team-mate, Ryan Hall, joined Sydney Roosters in the off-season and Watkins confirmed: “I have spoken to Hally quite a few times.
“He texted me after it was announced I was leaving. He is enjoying his time on Bondi Beach. It is growing in terms of English players going over there and testing themselves. They are doing really well and that makes it bright for England as well.”
Watkins’s exit will free up space on Leeds’ salary cap to bring in a new signing, but with teenager Harry Newman beginning to make a name for himself at Super League level, they are unlikely to splash out on a specialist centre.
“He is a talented young man,” Watkins said of Newman. “He is desperate to do really well for this team and for himself.
“He has got all the talent in the world. I have always advised him in certain areas, off the field and on it and the future is bright with him.
“He has got to keep his feet on the ground and I will try to advise him as best I can. I won’t be here, but I will be keeping an eye on him because his is a special talent.”