St Helens forward Joe Greenwood says moving to the NRL is an opportunity he could not turn down after it was confirmed he has signed a three-year deal with Gold Coast Titans.
The 23-year-old second rower, who was in England coach Wayne Bennett’s 31-strong Super League-based elite training squad preparing for the end-of-year World Cup, had been lined up to join the Titans on a two-year contract at the end of the 2017 season.
However, the Titans managed to fast forward the move after agreeing a swap deal with St Helens that brings former Catalans Dragons back rower Zeb Taia back to Super League on a three-year contract.
Gold Coast chief operating officer Tony Mestrov said: “We were excited about Joe joining us for seasons 2018 and 2019 but to be able to do a deal and have him at the club this season is a good result.
“He adds some size to our forward pack and will provide some good impact on the edges. Hopefully we can get him here relatively quickly and he will be pushing for an NRL start in the near future.
“In relation to Zeb, he is a quality individual and someone who provided great leadership in and around the playing group. It’s disappointing to lose him but he has the opportunity to prolong his career in the English Super League and we wish him well for the future.”
Greenwood, who made 77 appearances for Saints since making his debut against his hometown club Oldham in 2012, will find plenty of familiar faces in the NRL.
Wigan centre Dan Sarginson made the move to the Gold Coast at the end of the 2016 season, joining England team-mates Josh Hodgson, James Graham, the Burgess brothers, Elliott Whitehead and Gareth Widdop in the NRL.
Greeenwood said on his Twitter account: “I have been playing at St Helens from the academy level through to the first team for nine years, making it a big decision for me and my family. However, it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
“I’m looking forward to starting my new chapter with Gold Coast Titans. It’s going to be an exciting challenge but can’t wait to get stuck in with the boys.”
Saints coach Keiron Cunningham said: “We wouldn’t want to stand in the way of any player wishing to ply their trade elsewhere and Joe has been given a good opportunity at the Gold Coast.”
The loss of Greenwood has been offset by the signing of Taia, 32, who was named in the 2015 Super League Dream Team.
Taia, who captained the Cook Islands in the 2013 World Cup after switching his allegiance from New Zealand, played for Parramatta and Newcastle before moving in 2013 to the Catalans, for whom he scored 35 tries in 75 appearances.
Cunningham said: “We’re delighted to have signed a player of Zeb’s calibre and he will bolster our squad immediately.”
Taia had a year left on his contract with the Titans but leaves on good terms.
Gold Coast coach Neil Henry said: “Zeb wanted to prove last season that he was still able to perform in the NRL and he certainly did that, playing in every game except the finals fixture.
“He was a regular mainstay in our starting 13 last season and he provided great leadership both on and off the field. I’m sure he will be a strong addition to the St Helens playing roster.”