Matty Smith’s move to St Helens has been confirmed.
The switch was one of the worst-kept secrets in Super League.
Smith hosed down the link ahead of Saturday’s Grand Final and Saints coach Keiron Cunningham had previously said the halfback “isn’t on the radar”.
But he has today confirmed his return to his hometown club on a three-year deal from 2017.
The announcement was made ahead of the Warriors’ end-of-season dinner tonight.
Chairman Ian Lenagan said: “We felt that the time was right in view of his tremendous service to Wigan for Matty to take up this new opportunity and secure his long-term future.
“Matty is a fine professional and a fantastic person who will remain friends with everyone at the Wigan club. We wish him well with his new team, just not on Good Friday!”
Smith had two years to run on his Wigan deal.
But Jake Shorrocks, 20, is developing well, Sam Powell can cover halfback and hooker – Micky McIlorum will be back next season – and Kiwi international Thomas Leuluai is returning to the club.
His last match was Saturday’s Grand Final, when he kicked two penalties in the 12-6 win against Warrington.
Coach Shaun Wane said: “With long-term injuries to many key players this year Matty played in all but one game and led the team exceptionally well throughout the season. He has become a real leader of the team over the last four and a half years and he will always have my upmost respect.
“We’re saddened to be losing a fantastic player and person but delighted that Matty was able to leave the club as a Super League champion.”
A former Saints junior, Smith joined in 2012 from Salford and helped Wigan to the double the following year.
Though he has been criticised for his goal-kicking, he had a good kicking game in open play and did enough to earn England honours in 2014 and last year.
He captained the side on their charge to the Grand Final, until Sean O’Loughlin returned from injury.
Smith said: “I am thrilled and honoured to be back at my hometown team.
“It should be a seamless transition as I have come through the system at Saints and know the key staff and players as well as the club’s culture.”
Coach Cunningham added: “I’m delighted to have secured the services of Matty. He a class scrum half who possesses a fantastic kicking and passing game as well as being an accomplished goal kicker.
“This is a perfect opportunity for us to bring his experience and professionalism to the Saints to not only guide the side around the park but help nurture the youngsters we have here.”
Smith, who will replace Australia-bound Luke Walsh in the Saints squad, joins Josh Charnley (Sale Sharks) and Dan Sarginson (Gold Coast Titans) in departing.
Ryan Hampshire, who spent last season on loan at Castleford, is also set to tie up a move to Leigh. Warrington are circling prop Dom Crosby.
As well as Leuluai, Wigan have recruited their former player Joe Burgess after a year in the NRL. French prop Romain Navarrete has joined on a two-year deal, and his former Catalans team-mate Morgan Escare has also been linked with a move.